Paul Smith’s College Joins “Say Yes” Initiative

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Says Yes to Education and 11 new College Partners committed to tuition aid for urban students… and Paul Smith’s College become one of the newest participants in the program..

Say Yes to Education Inc., a national nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing high school and college graduation rates for students in urban school districts, are adding 11 additional private colleges and universities to the organization’s Higher Education Compact, which offers free tuition to eligible students.

According to the group, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been a longtime supporter of the program.. In addition to PrincetonUniversity, DartmouthCollege and Cornell… Paul Smith’s College here in the Adirondacks has joined the Higher Education Compact which provides opportunities for students in Syracuse, Buffalo and New York City to attend on of the 54 participating colleges..  

Kirsten GillibrandSenator Gillibrand says “Higher education remains one of the clearest paths to the middle class in the country – and she says it must be within reach for anyone willing to work their hardest, and earn their degree,’’ she continued by saying “Say Yes makes this possible.” Gillibrand recalled one of her first visits to Syracuse as Senator. There she says she saw right away the effectiveness of local stakeholders at every level working together to support students at every step of the way.

Say Yes to Education, which is based in New York City and serves nearly 65,000 children in kindergarten through 12th grade, has been working with the SyracuseCitySchool District since 2008 and with the Buffalo Public Schools since 2012. The organization expects to expand to additional U.S. cities in the coming years.

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In August, President Obama traveled to Syracuse and Buffalo, and praised the efforts of Say Yes and its partners in each city. In remarks in Buffalo, Mr. Obama said he had discussed with Mayor Byron Brown  “the great work that’s being done through the program that’s called Say Yes…to make sure that no child in Buffalo has to miss out on a college education because they can’t pay for it.”

Later, in Syracuse, he said, “I wanted to come to Syracuse because you’re doing something fantastic here with programs like Say Yes…” Invoking Say Yes to Education and a Syracuse CityS chool District program called the Smart Scholars Early College High School, the President added: “These are programs that are helping Syracuse kids get ready for college and making sure that they can afford to go. This is a community effort with all of you coming together.”

A critical component of the Say Yes approach is the scholarships for which the organization’s students are eligible. In Syracuse and Buffalo, graduates of the cities’ public high schools are eligible for up to 100 percent of the tuition needed to attend any public, two- or four-year college or university in New York State to which they are accepted. The scholarships are funded by local donors – including individuals, families, foundations and businesses –  in Syracuse and Buffalo.

Additionally, the private colleges and universities in the Say Yes Higher Education Compact – including Syracuse University, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University and Notre Dame – typically promise full tuition to accepted Say Yes scholars whose annual family income is at or below $75,000.

“Say Yes has always been about hope,” Mr. Weiss said. “By standing with Say Yes, what these private colleges and universities are saying is that our students will have the same opportunities as anyone else in this wonderful country of ours.”

“Higher education remains one of the clearest paths to the middle class in this country – and it must be within reach for anyone willing to work their hardest, and earn their degree,’’ Senator Gillibrand said. “Say Yes makes this possible. I saw it in action during one of my very first visits to Syracuse as Senator. I saw right away the effectiveness of local stakeholders at every level working together to support students at every step of the way. And with eleven more colleges joining the Say Yes Compact, and with support like this from the Wallace Foundation for Say Yes in Buffalo – that’s the power to do even more. Say Yes works because it shows young people what’s possible, and brings those possibilities within reach. Say Yes tells our young people – to think big. To dream big. And gives them the chance and the tools to earn it.”

Say Yes made special mention of those new members of its Higher Education Compact that had gone beyond the minimum scholarship requirement set by Say Yes. The organization noted that Cornell, Dartmouth, Rice, Sewanee and Rhodes had committed to cover the full cost of attendance (including charges such as room and board) for eligible Say Yes scholars.

Dartmouth College, Ms. Gillibrand’s alma mater, has committed to cover the full cost of attendance of eligible applicants whose annual family income is at or below $100,000. Say Yes officials said Ms. Gillibrand’s office had also played a critical role in its outreach efforts to Cornell.

In addition to scholarships, the organization and its local partners provide an array of services to students and their families that are intended to eliminate any obstacles to academic success. Those services include academic tutoring, legal assistance, mental health counseling, and medical care.

Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, the president of Say Yes to Education Inc., expressed the organization’s gratitude to the Wallace Foundation, for recently awarding Say Yes to Education a four-year, $4.5 million grant to support its efforts in Buffalo. The grant, in part, will help the national organization to fund areas in Buffalo such as the implementation of afterschool and summer learning programs, professional development of community-based organizations, and communications. Say Yes previously received a similar grant from Wallace to assist its efforts in Syracuse.

“We are most grateful to Wallace for having partnered with Say Yes to Education over the last three years,” Ms. Schmitt-Carey said. “There is no question that its support has been transformative and has enabled Say Yes to reach more students in need.  This grant will support and advance our shared commitment to providing children in cities with access to educational excellence and opportunity regardless of their background.”

Nancy Devine, director of the Learning & Enrichment Unit at The Wallace Foundation said: “Say Yes represents a promising, citywide approach to the challenge of providing children with the broad base of support that will help them succeed. We are pleased to partner with Say Yes and look forward to learning important lessons that will benefit children in Buffalo and beyond.” 

More than 3,000 high school graduates have gone off to college with Say Yes supports since its inception.  For the first 20 years of its existence, Say Yes worked with groups of students in Philadelphia, Cambridge, Hartford and New York City. Beginning in 2008, the organization expanded its approach to apply to entire cities. In Syracuse and Buffalo, Say Yes works in partnership with local elected officials, business leaders, community-based organizations and local universities – as well as students, parents, school administrators and teachers – to help students graduate high school and complete a post-secondary degree.

Jacques Steinberg, a former New York Times journalist, leads the Say Yes Higher Education Compact as the organization’s Senior Vice President.

To learn more about Say Yes to Education, go to http://www.sayyestoeducation.org.

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