Our Story

Excelsior University is an accredited, not-for-profit distance learning institution founded in 1971 focused on providing educational opportunity to adult learners.

Excelsior initially achieved its mission to provide adult learners with a flexible and affordable pathway to a credential through the assessment of learning and the aggregation of credit earned from inside and outside the classroom. It soon added credit by examination, and students could study independently and take exams to validate their knowledge. Thirty years later, in the 2000s, Excelsior was among the first institutions developing and offering online courses.

Our Mission

Excelsior University provides educational opportunity to adult learners with an emphasis on those historically underrepresented in higher education. Excelsior meets students where they are — academically and geographically, offering quality instruction and the assessment of learning.

Our Promise

Excelsior continues to grow and evolve to meet opportunities for delivering education and the changing needs of adult learners. Our focus on student success by meeting their learning needs has led to the concept of an ecosystem that integrates all our offerings: instructor-led and self-paced courses, prior learning assessment, and stackable credentials.

With our generous credit acceptance practices, learners can transfer academic credit from previous college experiences and receive credit for military and workforce training, professional licenses and certifications, CLEP, DANTES, and other approved exams. Undergraduate students take a Cornerstone course that equips them with the skills, resources, tools, and mindsets critical for academic and career success, and they engage with University Learning Outcomes (ULOs) throughout their degree programs. The ULOs are aligned with general education courses, undergraduate degree major coursers, and graduate degree major courses. This outcome alignment from the course level to the university level helps ensure consistency and embedded educational values from a competency and learning outcome perspective throughout all degree levels. All students – undergraduate and graduate – complete a culminating capstone experience to demonstrate their achievement of program outcomes.


Excelsior offers more than 35 degree programs across six areas of study: business, health sciences, liberal arts, nursing, public service, and technology. Dedicated academic advisors and faculty members foster and promote academic success as students work toward career advancement and achievement of life goals.

Guiding Principles

Excelsior University provides access to quality higher education through innovative online learning, exceptional student experience, and innovation to be a model for addressing societal and workforce needs.


Excelsior provides support services needed for degree completion.


Excelsior provides programs and services that meet students where they are academically and geographically.


Excelsior prudently manages its resources to invest in people and offer high-quality education credentials at an affordable price.


Excelsior expects a collaborative effort and full engagement from all to develop and provide programs of exceptional value to students and employers.


Excelsior practices inclusion by welcoming and valuing all students, staff members, and faculty members in our learning community, and providing them with educational opportunities.


Members of the Excelsior community work together to develop, deliver, and sustain high-quality academic products and services for students.

A Brief Chronology

Founded in 1971 by the New York State Board of Regents, Excelsior University was originally known as the Regents External Degree Program (REX). Initial development was funded by major grants from the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation.

From 1971 until 1998, Regents College (as it became known in 1986) operated as a program of the Board of Regents (which also served as its board of trustees) and under the authority of The University of the State of New York by which degrees and diplomas were awarded during that period.

In April 1998, the Board of Regents granted Excelsior a charter to operate as a private, nonprofit, independent institution and on January 1, 2001, Regents College changed its name to Excelsior College.

In the early 2000s, Excelsior was among the first institutions to develop and offer courses via fully online instruction.

Excelsior has a long history of supporting learners, particularly those who do not see themselves reflected in traditional higher education. It has become the largest online institution in New York state, and in acknowledgment of the breadth of its programs and bold future, the institution became Excelsior University effective August 1, 2022.

An independent board of trustees composed of prominent individuals in the fields of education, business, and the professions from across the United States governs Excelsior University, ensuring Excelsior delivers upon the promise of its mission, vision, and values. As are all educational institutions in New York state, Excelsior University is a member of The University of the State of New York.