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Private colleges sign on to Say Yes; Room and board stipend added for state schools

Say Yes to Education has expanded its college scholarship program for graduates of district and charter schools in Buffalo to include tuition scholarships for 20 participating private colleges and a $2,000 annual award toward room and board for students wanting to attend a SUNY or CUNY school.

Twenty private colleges have partnered with Say Yes to Education to offer full-tuition scholarships to Buffalo high school graduates whose family income is less than $75,000.
Schools participating in the Say Yes Buffalo Private College Compact have agreed to cover tuition costs above what is covered by any Pell or TAP grants that students qualify for.

The list of participating colleges includes several local institutions – Canisius College, Medaille College, Niagara University, D'Youville College, Daemen College, Hilbert College, Houghton College, St. Bonaventure University, Trocaire College, Villa Maria College and Bryant & Stratton College.

The list also includes several outside the region, including Colgate University, Syracuse University and the University of Rochester – and one Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania.

"We expect this to grow over time," said David Rust, executive director of Say Yes to Education Buffalo. "You're starting to see internationally recognized institutions of higher learning getting on board with this."

In December, Say Yes announced its plans to partner with Buffalo and provide full-tuition scholarships only to public colleges and universities in New York for graduates of district and charter schools in Buffalo.

Say Yes Buffalo plans to make a formal announcement of the program's expansion at a news conference this morning at Medaille College.

To be eligible for the scholarship, students must be admitted on their own merits to the college or university. ?The scholarship is available for Buffalo residents who graduate from a district or charter high school in the City of Buffalo, starting next June. Students must have attended a district or charter school in the city from ninth to 12th grade to be eligible.

Some colleges will offer the scholarship to however many students qualify, Rust said. For instance, he said, Medaille has agreed to provide the scholarship to an unlimited number of students.

Other schools, though, will cap the number of students receiving Say Yes scholarships, Rust said. For example, Villa Maria has agreed to provide a Say Yes scholarship to four students each year.

Details on exactly how many scholarships each college will provide are not yet available. Rust said those details would be posted within a month at www.sayyesbuffalo.org.

Some of the participating colleges will offer scholarships to students whose families' incomes are as high as $100,000, he said. Those details also will be posted on the Say Yes Buffalo website within a month.

Other participating private colleges are: Crouse Hospital College of Nursing, Cooper Union, Lesley University, Rochester Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

"We are extremely excited about this partnership with Say Yes to Education," said Superintendent Pamela C. Brown. "It will be another opportunity to remove some of the financial barriers that students encounter."

Students whose families earn more than $75,000 a year may apply for a Say Yes Buffalo Choice Scholarship, which will provide up to $5,000 a year at a participating private college.

"The idea is investing in families that are investing in Buffalo," Rust said. "This is a significant piece in turning the school system around. It's a door-opener. I do believe this is a transformational opportunity for children graduating from district and charter schools."

The ground rules for the SUNY and CUNY scholarships differ from those for the Private College Compact in two key ways:

*The Private College Compact is available to any student who has attended a district or charter school in the City of Buffalo from ninth to 12th grade. But to be eligible for the full SUNY/CUNY scholarship, a student must attend a district or charter school in the city from kindergarten through 12th grade.

For students who have attended city schools for only a portion of their education, the scholarship is partial. For instance, if a student has attended city schools only from ninth through 12th grade, he or she would be eligible for a 65 percent tuition scholarship at a SUNY or CUNY school.

*There is no family income limit for the SUNY/CUNY tuition scholarship. There is a family income limit for the Private College Compact – in most cases, $75,000.

Say Yes today will announce that students receiving a Say Yes scholarship for a public college also will be eligible for $2,000 a year toward room and board if they choose to live on campus at a SUNY or CUNY school.

The Private College Compact is funded by the participating colleges. The SUNY/CUNY scholarship is funded by donations from private individuals and foundations.

So far, Say Yes has raised $17 million toward its $100 million goal for funding the SUNY/CUNY scholarships.

Say Yes also plans to help Buffalo Public Schools students connect with various support services in the community over the next several years. One of the first steps will involve placing a site facilitator in each school. The site facilitator will work with the student support team in each building to identify student needs.

Fourteen schools will receive a site facilitator in 2012-13. Brown on Wednesday announced those schools: Blackman Early Childhood Center; Early Childhood Center 17; Olmsted School 156; School 8; Native American Magnet; Bennett Park Montessori; D'Youville Porter Campus School; Bilingual Center 33; International Prep; Harvey Austin; Martin Luther King Jr.; Emerson School of Hospitality; East High School; and Bennett High School.

For each building, the principal will sit in on the final interviews for the site facilitator, Rust said. The site facilitators will be in place in November, he said.

email: mpasciak@buffnews.com