Governor directs officials to broaden interpretation
of MERIT scholarship eligibility for Gold Star Families


ALBANY, N.Y. (April 17, 2019) – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed the Higher Education Services Corporation to broaden the interpretation of eligibility for New York's Military Enhanced Recognition Incentive and Tribute (MERIT) Scholarship. Under the new interpretation, college tuition and related costs will be covered for all children, spouses, and financial dependents of members of the U.S. Armed Forces who die or become severely and permanently disabled, or missing in action while performing their military duties.

Under the previous interpretation of the statute, only children, spouses, and financial dependents of veterans killed in a combat zone were eligible for the scholarship.

The announcement, made during the Month of the Military Child, honors the sacrifices made by military Families every day.

"Military service is more than just the active military member – I believe the entire Family is in service, and we will honor that sacrifice and respect that service not just in words, not just with symbols, but with deeds," the governor said.

"That is why New York is taking immediate action to extend benefits to all those lost or disabled while on active duty, period,” he continued. “We can never replace the loved one lost, but we can lessen the hardship and make it a little easier to deal with the loss, and it is our honor, our obligation and our pleasure to do just that. We hope this gesture helps bring some comfort, peace, relief and justice to those grieving their loss."

Created in 2003 just after the start of the war in Iraq in an effort to provide greater support to New York's military service members, the MERIT Scholarship covers up to four years of full-time undergraduate study (or five years in an approved five-year bachelor's degree program) and includes the following components:

  • Tuition: An amount equal to the actual tuition or the State University of New York's (SUNY) in-state tuition, whichever is less.

  • Non-tuition costs: Includes room and board and allowances for books, supplies and transportation up to the average cost at SUNY colleges.

  • Residence: Students living on campus are awarded a higher room and board allowance than a commuter student. If housing is not available for students on campus, they will receive the same allowance as students living on campus. For the current academic year, recipients will receive a maximum of $24,250 if living on campus and a maximum of $15,750 if commuting to college.


In 2018, an estimated 111 students received this award, totaling $1.8 million. Since its implementation in 2003, MERIT scholarships have helped 387 veterans' Family Members pay their college tuition.