New York Gov. Hochul unveils direct admissions, mandatory FAFSA proposals


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Dive Brief:

  • New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a wide-ranging slate of higher education initiatives Tuesday, continuing her effort to boost enrollment at the state’s public systems and increase college access.
  • Under Hochul’s proposal, New York high school students who graduate in the top 10% of their class would receive automatic admissions offers to campuses within the State University of New York and the City University of New York systems.
  • The governor also intends to propose legislation requiring the state’s high school seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, Hochul said during her State of the State address.

Dive Insight:

Hochul’s plan to offer top-performing New York seniors automatic admission to the state’s public colleges mirrors a model pioneered by Texas in the late ’90s, which has since been replicated by several states, and could help boost enrollment.

SUNY has struggled with declining enrollment for years. After a concerted policy effort, the 64-campus system saw a year-over-year enrollment increase of 1.1% in fall 2023, its first in a decade. But the total number of students that term — almost 368,000 — is well short of the governor’s goal of 500,000.

Hochul, who has made higher education and college access a focal point of her administration since taking office in 2021, has previously implemented automatic admissions initiatives.

Last year, she said about 125,000 graduating high school students would be notified of their automatic acceptance to their local SUNY community colleges in the fall. In November, the system touted a 4.3% increase among first-time undergraduates, citing in part, the admissions program.

SUNY Chancellor John King Jr. praised the governor’s announcement Tuesday.

“This plan will advance equity while helping to retain our most talented students,” he said in a joint statement with SUNY’s trustees. “Under Governor Hochul’s leadership, New York is making a commitment to public higher education like no other state, and for that we are grateful.”

Hochul is also calling on the Legislature to make applying for federal financial aid a state graduation requirement.

If her plan is approved, nearly every high school senior would need to complete the FAFSA or opt out of the process. For those who are not U.S. citizens, the proposal would direct graduating students to complete the New York State Dream Act application, a form that evaluates eligibility for state‐administered scholarships.

The program is intended to ensure every high schooler knows what financial aid options are available to them, Hochul said. A handful of states are weighing or have already implemented similar FAFSA graduate requirements.

In addition to these state initiatives, the U.S. Department of Education has revamped the form to make it easier for students. The agency recently released a simplified version of the FAFSA that requires applicants to answer as few as 18 questions. The previous form, which had more than 100, was a known pain point for prospective college students and their families.

As part of her larger proposal, Hochul is also directing the state’s public college systems to broaden their student outreach about voter registration and federal food benefits eligibility.



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