More private colleges and Ivy League schools sign onto Say Yes - The Buffalo News
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More private colleges and Ivy League schools sign onto Say Yes

Say Yes to Education has added 11 more colleges and universities – including Dartmouth, Princeton and Cornell – to its ever growing roster of schools that will provide free tuition to an unlimited number of Buffalo public school student who qualify for Say Yes tuition scholarships.

“The generosity of our local donors allow us to attract these prestigious private universities to commit to private tuition scholarships for Buffalo,” said David Rust, executive director of Say Yes 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.”

The other new schools added to the growing Say Yes list include New York colleges Hamilton College in Clinton, and Paul Smith’s College in Brighton. Also added are Rice University in Houston, Texas; Pomona College in Southern California; Denison University in Granville, Ohio; and three Tennessee schools: Vanderbilt University, Rhodes College, and Sewanee: The University of the South.

The latest school additions bring the total number of participating colleges in the national Say Yes program to 54. Dartmouth, Princeton and Cornell join their Ivy League brethren Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard as participating Say Yes schools.

Buffalo’s public and charter school students are eligible for tuition scholarships at 40 of the 54 schools because some schools partnered with Say Yes prior to the program’s establishment in Buffalo in late 2011 and do not yet have arrangements with Say Yes Buffalo.

The role of the Say Yes program in Buffalo is perceived by many as a bright spot in a city school district otherwise beleaguered by state directives, corrective action plans, low test scores and embattled leadership.

Say Yes founder George Weiss pointed out during this morning’s announcement in Washington, D.C. that Cornell, Dartmouth, Rice, Sewanee, Rhodes and Vanderbilt have committed to cover the full cost of attendance, including room and board, for accepted Say Yes scholars.

He also said that Dartmouth College has committed to cover the full cost of attendance of eligible applicants whose annual family income is at or below $100,000 – a higher income level than what Say Yes currently requires.

The 40 private schools to which Buffalo’s Say Yes students can receive tuition scholarships is on top of the 74 colleges and universities in the SUNY and CUNY systems that also participate.

All of the colleges that have partnered with Say Yes so far this year have placed no limit on the number of Say Yes students they will accept, as long as the students gain admission on their own merits.

Buffalo students from families earning $75,000 or less would be eligible for fully covered tuition to a private college if they attended a Buffalo public or charter school since kindergarten.

There is no maximum income threshold for students who commit to attending one of the state colleges or universities, including the University at Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo State and community colleges.

The percentage of tuition scholarship coverage decreases if the student attended Buffalo schools for fewer years, with students who enroll as late as ninth grade receiving 65 percent of tuition coverage.

Students from families earning more than $75,000 would still be eligible to receive grants of $5,000 a year from Say Yes if they choose to attend one of the private schools affiliated with the program.

The Buffalo chapter of Say Yes to Education was founded in 2011. The Class of 2013 was the first class to be eligible for Say Yes scholarships.

These scholarships provide gap funding that covers the difference between a college’s tuition and whatever other financial aid grants or scholarships a student receives.

The scholarship money – more than $18.6 million so far – is raised primarily through donations by Western New York businesses, organizations, families and individuals. Fund raising is ongoing as the organization works toward its initial goal of $30 million.

The Say Yes program not only guarantees tuition coverage for eligible students, but also provides other student support services.

Say Yes site facilitators will be working to provide support services to students in 60 percent of all Buffalo public schools later next month, and half of all the schools are expected to offer after-school programs later this fall.

Rust said the new partnering colleges and universities are eager to sign onto the Say Yes program because it offers extensive student supports.

“They understand that the Say Yes is more than the scholarship,” he said, “and that’s what attracts them.”

For a full list of colleges and universities participating in the Say Yes Buffalo program, visit the School Zone blog at


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