The new SUNY Chancellor toured the campus of Onondaga Community College Wednesday morning.
Kristina Johnson officially started the top job at SUNY in early September. She is in charge of the system’s 64 campuses Statewide.
She takes over just as New York begins its Excelsior Scholarship Program.
Excelsior is designed to ensure free tuition for families and individuals earning less than $125,000 when fully implemented in 2019.
“I think its early days, I think that as we know its a last dollar program and its a tool in the toolbox to allow more students to be able to aspire to and get the kind of higher education that’s going to be so critical.” Johnson tells NewsChannel 9.
Johnson toured the OCC campus with School President Dr. Casey Crabill.
Crabill says about 239 students at her school are receiving some support from Excelsior, a small percentage because most students there qualify for the very generous TAP Scholarship program.
Among other things with Excelsior Johnson and Crabill are keeping watch on the impact the scholarship will have on enrollment at New York’s community colleges if students use the scholarship to skip over the two-year schools for four year State schools.
“I think what it does is give our students and their families a broad range of choices, 64 to be precise. And it takes the planning and the fear about how much that costs and puts it in a much smaller proportion so instead of choosing by money you can choose by program.”
OCC did in fact see a decline in enrollment for this school year but that’s something Dr. Crabill says they were expecting and has nothing to do with the excelsior scholarship.
“Outside of the city of new york high school graduating classes are shrinking so we pegged our anticipated decline to that and it did pan out.” She says.
Johnson adds, “We’ll learn more and I’m sure we will modify as we understand how the tools in the toolbox work together.”
80% of the nearly 38,000 Central New York families with college age students qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship.