ALBANY — State University of New York applicants from low-income backgrounds will automatically have their college application fees waived.

Beginning March 1, students who financially qualify for free or reduced-price lunch programs, whose household income does not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, or are from foster families can apply to up to seven SUNY campuses for free — a savings of up to $350 in application fees per student. The application fee per school is $50.

Currently, a student may seek a waiver if a school guidance counselor signs off on it or if the student submits a separate waiver with family financial information. This has barred many eligible students from participating in the program, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said.

”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,” Malatras said.

Only about 50% of low-income SUNY applicants eligible for an application fee waiver take advantage of the program.

The automatic waiver will soon be seamless with an electronic check box that the student or counselor clicks on when sending in transcripts.

An estimated 110,000 high school seniors would be eligible for the application fee waiver.

Students with any questions about the application process may schedule one-on-one admission help at www.suny.edu/start.

Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. and state Education Department Commissioner Betty A. Rosa commended SUNY for streamlining the application fee waiver process for economically disadvantage students.

”SUNY is eliminating an unnecessary barrier that could impact a young person’s ability to attain his or her full potential,” Rosa and Young said in a statement.

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