September 19, 2013
Eleven private colleges and universities recently joined the Say Yes to Education initiative to provide students from low- and middle-income families with a free postsecondary education, Syracuse.com reported. Among the new program participants are such prestigious institutions as Princeton University, Rice University, Dartmouth College, and Cornell University. 54 private colleges now participate in the program, along with 74 public colleges and universities in the CUNY and SUNY systems, The Buffalo News stated.
Say Yes to Education, founded in 1987, is a nonprofit that aims to increase high school and college graduation rates of inner-city youth in the U.S. Aside from tuition aid, the organization offers several services to eligible students, including tutoring, mentoring, and even health care, to help them reach their academic potential. Support services begin when the child is in kindergarten and continue throughout college. As Say Yes explained, the organization collaborates with a range of partners, including school administrators, business leaders, community-based organizations, local elected officials, and local universities, to provide support services to eligible students across participating locations. Say Yes currently has branches in Philadelphia, Cambridge, Hartford, Harlem, Syracuse, and Buffalo.
According to Democrat and Chronicle, the new university additions to the program will affect about 65,000 students residing in participating school districts. In order to qualify for free college tuition, a student's family must earn a pre-tax income of $75,000 or less. Dartmouth, however, set its income limit at $100,000, Syracuse.com noted. Say Yes also offers free tuition to all Syracuse graduates -- regardless of their family income -- who gain admission to Syracuse University or one of New York's public universities. In Buffalo, eligibility is also dependent on how long a student attends a public school in the city. For example, a student who enrolled in a Buffalo public school in ninth grade would receive only a 65 percent tuition break, rather than a full tuition break.
Say Yes's Syracuse branch explains that in order to apply for a college scholarship, students must be admitted to a partnering college or university and also apply and be eligible for federal financial aid. They must then complete a Say Yes Student Certification Form, which will help determine how much of a scholarship they will receive. Award disbursements, which are paid directly to the college, begin after the fall and spring semesters start. Students who do not wish to attend college directly after high school are still eligible for the program for another academic year.
While most schools signed up to offer just free tuition, Dartmouth College, Rhodes College, Cornell University, Rice University, and Sewanee: The University of the South are all offering eligible students a full ride, complete with room and board, The Buffalo News noted. None of the participating schools have placed a cap as to how many students they will accept from the program, as long as those students are accepted to the university on their own merits.
How is the organization funding tuition for all eligible students? Say Yes primarily funds scholarships via donations by Western New York organizations, businesses, families, and individual contributors. The nonprofit has raised $18.6 million thus far and continuously holds fundraising events to meet its overall goal of $30 million. David Rust, executive director of Say Yes Buffalo, commented on how these donations are helping the organization fulfill its mission: "The generosity of our local donors allow[s] us to attract these prestigious private universities to commit to private tuition scholarships for Buffalo. This offers more proof of hope and belief to the teachers, to the students and parents, that each student can achieve his or her full potential."
Compiled by Aneesha Jhingan
"Cornell joins group offering free bachelor's degrees," democratandchronicle.com, September 18, 2013, Brian Tumulty
<"How to Apply," sayyessyracuse.org
"More private colleges and Ivy League schools sign onto Say Yes," buffalonews.com, September 18, 2013, Sandra Tan
"Say Yes to Education," sayyestoeducation.org
"Say Yes to Education adds Cornell, Hamilton, nine more private colleges to its free-tuition list," syracuse.com, September 18, 2013, Paul Riede
"Senator Gillibrand and Say Yes Announce 11 New Colleges," sayyeseducation.org, September 18, 2013