UTICA, N.Y. (NEWS10) – SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced the elimination of application fees for high school seniors from low-income households applying to SUNY campuses. Beginning on March 1, students who financially qualify for free or reduced-price lunch programs, whose household income does not exceed 185% of the federal poverty guidelines, or are from foster families are eligible to apply to up to seven SUNY campuses, saving up to $350 in application fees per student.

The application waiver process created many barriers for low-income students, says Malatras. Currently, a student may seek a waiver if a school guidance counselor signs off or if the student submits a separate waiver with family financial information. Malatras says this has barred many eligible students from participating in the program.

First, according to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, students who are eligible for fee waivers are often deterred from even applying to college due to burdensome multiple steps to prove eligibility, as well as misunderstanding or confusion about eligibility for fee waivers.

Second, of those low-income students that have applied to a SUNY campus and are eligible for an application fee waiver, only 50% take advantage of the program, leaving eligible students to pay costs not owed.

SUNY’s waiver is now automatic to those eligible individuals without a need for additional paperwork or waiver applications. An estimated 110,000 seniors would be eligible for SUNY’s automatic application fee waiver. Students with any questions about the application process may schedule one-on-one admission help through the SUNY website.

“Too many barriers from food insecurity to fees stand in the way of many qualified students—from low-income and communities of color—and a college education. We must do everything we can to break down barriers and empower students no matter their economic status or background, especially as a vast majority of all new jobs created requires some post-secondary education. As application data have shown, the pandemic has exacerbated this problem with declining applications dropping most amongst low-income or communities of color. Higher education’s enrollment challenge is really an equity challenge and by automatically eliminating SUNY’s college application fee for low-income students, we’re unlocking many more doors of opportunity for all. Waiving SUNY’s application fee is our down payment on the future of our students and is another example showing how SUNY can meet students where they are, knock down any barriers that prevents them from applying, while always looking for innovative ways to further connect students to the high-quality education found at any of our campuses.”

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras

Previously, in order to receive the $50 application fee waiver a student would need to print and sign the form requesting the fee waiver, have their parent or family guardian sign it, and then either send in their proof of income or bring the form to their guidance counselor to sign, and then send it with a physical signature. With SUNY’s automatic application fee waiver, the process will be seamless with an electronic check box that the student or counselor clicks on when they send transcripts with the application. This seamless process will launch on March 1.