WASHINGTON – Students in the Say Yes program may see their college scholarship payments delayed – meaning they may have to pay tuition late fees – thanks to a new U.S. Department of Education policy that Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer spoke out against Thursday.
Schumer said that under the new federal policy, only two private scholarship providers – the United Negro College Fund and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund – have direct access to financial aid data from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. He said the Department of Education ought to make that data available to a broader group of private scholarship providers to make sure that Say Yes students get the aid they deserve.
"Over the years, Say Yes chapters in Buffalo and Syracuse have helped transform the lives of thousands of city school students by helping them attain and afford a college degree," said Schumer, a New York Democrat. "But thanks to the thoughtless actions of bureaucrats in Washington, vital organizations like Say Yes are unable to access the financial data they need to provide the financial aid that thousands of Syracuse and Buffalo students depend on to cover the costs of their educations."
Without direct access to that financial aid data, private scholarship providers have to rely on students to provide it, thereby slowing down the scholarship process, Schumer said.
Say Yes, which operates in Buffalo and Syracuse, seeks to bring together school districts, parents, teachers, local governments, colleges, businesses and community groups to increase high school and college graduation rates.
One way the program does that is through scholarships, which allow low-income Say Yes high school graduates to move on to college.
Buffalo's Say Yes program has helped 2,587 students since 2011, but Schumer said he feared that the program will be much less effective under the new Department of Education rules.
"For a state like New York, which is home to numerous colleges and thousands of students, this new rule will have one clear outcome: fewer students will get the help they need to finance their education," he said.
Schumer outlined his concerns in a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
"This reinterpretation of existing law upended long-standing guidance and practice with little notice for students, institutions, and scholarship providers, and has already caused confusion and for some scholarship payments to be delayed," said Schumer, who asked DeVos to allow a broader range of scholarship providers to have direct access to the student financial aid data.