Our Story

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

The College 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, the College was among the first institutions developing and offering online courses.

Our Promise

The College 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, independent study for credit by examination, prior learning assessment, and stackable credentials.

With our generous credit acceptance practices, learners can transfer academic credit from previous college experiences; receive credit for military and workforce training, professional licenses and certifications, CLEP, DANTES, and other approved exams; and undergo portfolio assessments of real-world experience. 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 general education career competencies throughout their degree programs. The graduate experience includes core competencies that ensure students become effective and highly ethical leaders upon earning their degrees. All students complete a culminating capstone experience to demonstrate their achievement of program outcomes.


Excelsior offers 40 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.


Excelsior comprises three schools: School of Undergraduate Studies, School of Graduate Studies, and School of Nursing.

Guiding Principles

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

Excelsior College is a provider of choice for adults seeking access to higher education and academic success, and it is a model for addressing societal and workforce needs.


Excelsior provides programs and services that meet students where they are academically and geographically, and provides support services needed for completion.


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 values and practices integrity and honesty in our relationships with students, each other, and the communities we serve.


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 College was originally known as the Regents External Degree Program (REX). Initial development of the College 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 the College 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.

Today, 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 College, ensuring the College delivers upon the promise of its mission, vision, and values.