SUNY schools may see more students taking tours around state campuses.

In a press release issued on Feb. 6, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced applications are rising at New York’s public colleges and universities, attributing the increase to the Excelsior Scholarship.

The scholarship, spearheaded by Cuomo and implemented in April 2017, made New York the first state in the nation to offer a tuition-free college program. It works with existing initiatives like New York’s Tuition Assistance Program to erase tuition costs for families that make under $110,000 per year, a cap that is set to increase to $125,000 in the 2019-20 academic year. Currently, roughly 53 percent of New York state full-time students are attending school tuition-free at a SUNY or CUNY college or university.

SUNY received a 9 percent increase in unique student applications for fall 2018 processed through the SUNY Application Services Center. According to Cuomo, the application increase is a sign that the scholarship is working as intended to ease costs for middle-class families.

“The Excelsior Scholarship opens the door to higher education and a brighter economic future, and this increase in applications is proof positive that students are seizing this unprecedented opportunity,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Students who apply to the scholarship are required to complete 30 credits per year, a requirement designed to increase the number of freshman students taking 15 or more credits. In fall 2016, there were 37,270 full-time freshmen who took 15 credits or more within the SUNY system. Last semester, 41,282 students took 15 credits or more, an increase of nearly 11 percent.

Binghamton University received over 38,000 freshman applications for fall 2018 — a 15 percent increase from last year, according to the University’s Undergraduate Admissions Office. Admissions also received an increase in transfer student applications. The wave of prospective students marked BU’s fourth consecutive year receiving a record number of applications.

By December 2017, the Admissions Office had already offered 3,000 students the chance to enroll, which is the earliest the University has released student application decisions in recent years. Additionally, student deposits to confirm enrollment are up 9 percent from last year. Ryan Yarosh, director of media and public relations at BU, said the Admissions Office has set a goal to accept qualified students earlier in hopes of raising the acceptance rate of highly qualified students.

“One of our goals this year has been to review and offer admission to outstanding students earlier in the admissions season,” Yarosh wrote in an email. “We believe that this will help us increase the rate of acceptance among the top students.”

University President Harvey Stenger said the new record in freshman applications confirms the University’s esteemed research, rigorous academics and advanced facilities, which all contribute to the student experience.

“This increase in applications speaks directly to the phenomenal research, outstanding academics and state-of-the-art facilities which engage and challenge our students,” Stenger said.