New Haven - Yale Delivers a Promise
(11/9/2010) ...The New Haven Promise
(From The New York Times)
New Haven, Seeking to Get More Students Into College, Will Pay Tuition
By WINNIE HU
Published: November 9, 2010
Public high school students in New Haven now have another reason to go to college: free tuition.
City and school officials announced on Tuesday that a new program, called New Haven Promise, would offer to pay eligible students’ way through any public college or university in Connecticut. The program will also pay up to $2,500 a year to those who attend a private college in the state.
The program — to cost $4.5 million a year, financed primarily by Yale University — is open to students who live in the city and have attended its public schools, including charter schools, since at least ninth grade, regardless of family income. Students must also have at least a 3.0 grade point average and a 90 percent attendance rate.
About 200 of the 1,000 graduates last year would have qualified, city officials said.
“It provides a direct path for students to go to college,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said in a telephone interview on Monday. “There’s a rich universe of colleges in Connecticut that will serve these students well.”
Mr. DeStefano said the program was intended to curb a citywide high school dropout rate of 38 percent and cultivate a college-going culture, as well as to provide an economic incentive for families to move to New Haven. Students will qualify for the financial aid on a sliding scale, with those who started in city schools at kindergarten receiving the most, 100 percent of their tuition. Students who arrived in the ninth grade will receive 65 percent.
The New Haven program is one of a growing number of similar initiatives across the nation.
In New York, the 21,000-student Syracuse school district joined in 2008 with Syracuse University and Say Yes to Education, a nonprofit foundation, to offer free college tuition to students who attend 10th, 11th and 12th grades in one of the city’s five public high schools. The students must be admitted to one of a group of more than 80 private and public colleges.
Syracuse school officials said that more than 1,000 students had received free tuition through the program, and that the district’s enrollment had increased by 300 students since 2008 as more families moved into the city. But the graduation rate has remained unchanged.
George A. Weiss, a Wall Street financier who founded Say Yes to Education in 1987, said the foundation had paid college tuition for more than 350 students in predominantly poor schools in Hartford; Philadelphia; Cambridge, Mass.; and Harlem in New York City. He said academic enrichment programs, counseling and other services had supplemented the tuition assistance.
“You can’t just give them an offer of money,” Mr. Weiss said. “They still have their day-to-day issues, and you have to help them. It’s made a huge difference.”
In New Haven, Mayor DeStefano said the tuition program was part of a two-year campaign to turn around the city’s schools that has included trying to narrow the achievement gap for black and Hispanic students.
Students will have to maintain a grade point average of 2.5 in college to continue receiving the tuition money, valued at up to $8,000 a year for a public college.
The program, which will be phased in beginning with the senior class this year, will be financed for each of the first four years with $4 million from Yale and an additional $500,000 from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. Mr. DeStefano said he expected that the program would eventually raise additional money from other sources, including private colleges.
Roland Lemar, a father of two and a Democrat who was recently elected a state representative, said the free tuition program would help make college a reality for many students whose families are struggling.
“I’m still paying off student loans from when I went to college 12 years ago,” Mr. Lemar, 34, said. “And to allow an entire generation of New Haven residents to attend college without that burden, my children included, is a wonderful statement of where our priorities are.”
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