Free college tuition begins now for Cleveland students as it arrives Say yes to education


CLEVELAND, Ohio – The university will be free for virtually all Cleveland school district graduates starting in this year's senior clbad, after the highly anticipated launch of the Say Yes to Education scholarship and student support program in the city today. .

A team from the city, the county, the philanthropic leaders and Say Yes announced the scholarships at a rally at John Marshall High School to encourage students this morning, promising that the increasing cost of tuition will no longer prevent students from graduates of the Cleveland school district attend college. Officials have already raised more than 70 percent of the $ 125 million they need to pay for scholarships for the next 25 years.

Although students and families will still have to pay the cost of living, the new Say Yes scholarships will cover all remaining tuition costs once federal and state aid is used.

Related coverage: Say Yes to Education announces that Cleveland will be the next nonprofit site for its community efforts.

"Today we guarantee that your dreams can come true," school district executive director Eric Gordon told the students.

Say Yes founder George Weiss, a New York businessman, told students that he wants scholarships to give hope to students.

"It's about raising the expectations of young people," he said.

The students were excited about not having to worry about paying for college.

"It will make a big difference," said John Marshall, a senior at James Woolfolk Jr., "Now I do not have to work two jobs to get ahead, I can just get started and I do not have to worry about being in debt and owing money to anyone." .

And Yasmin Adam, an immigrant from Sudan, said the announcement would allow her to abandon her plans to work for a few years to save money before going to nursing school.

"I was afraid of going to college, because I am the first generation (with your family)," he said. "When I came here, I lost all hope of going to college and pursuing my dream."

And senior student, Lynae Howard, called the new scholarships "incredible."

"Nobody wants to pay loans for the rest of their lives," he said. "This given to us can stop that, I'm very grateful that this is given to us."

Others said that scholarships will help more than students. By offering a free university, they said, more students will be better educated and will be able to improve the economy of the region as adults.

"This will provide access to low and middle income students in ways they have not seen before," said Helen Williams of the Cleveland Foundation, a leading partner in bringing Say Yes here.

Cleveland has long had lower rates of adults with college degrees than other cities. And although the district has been trying to push more students to college or other training after graduation, it has not worked. The percentage of Cleveland school district graduates attending college has decreased from 54 percent in 2011 to 40 percent in 2017.

"That's unacceptable," Gordon said. So he and others wanted to find a way to alleviate the financial barriers for students to attend and eliminate the loans that then paralyze them.

After two and a half years of planning, Cleveland becomes the fourth city to partner with Say Yes to Education, based in New York, which will be a spark to change that trend. Say Yes is one of more than 200 programs called "Promise for College" in the country, where all students in a district are promised free tuition at certain universities if they graduate from high school and are accepted and are universities. eligible

Say yes is already in force in Buffalo and Syracuse, N.Y., and in Guilford County, N.C.

Say Yes goes a step further than a typical program of promise in helping communities add social support services to schools so that students are more likely to succeed in school and get to college.

The national organization Say Yes contributes $ 15 million to the efforts of each city for organizational and administrative costs, while offering financial and planning experience. But each community must raise its own money for scholarships and organize services within schools.

Donations from 40 companies, foundations and individuals in northeastern Ohio already covered $ 88.4 million of the $ 125 million program fundraising goal, more than 70 percent of the total, which puts it well ahead of others Promising programs across the country that started with lower amounts. Then he struggled to throw away the final dollars.

"We are very confident that we will do what we have to do," said Paul Clark, regional president of the PNC bank in Cleveland.

Cleveland Foundation CEO Ronn Richard told students today that these donations should send a clear message: "Cleveland believes in you."

The amount of each donor has not been released, although the Cleveland Foundation is the dominant donor. Other known donors include the George Gund Foundation, the Key Bank Foundation and the Haslam 3 Foundation of the Cleveland Browns owner, Jimmy Haslam. Haslam's brother, Bill, the governor of Tennessee, initiated a program of college promises at the state level, but more limited, in that state.

Here are the key details about the program. The information is also available at

Click here to see the video of the full announcement rally.

Who is eligible:

All residents of the Cleveland school district who attend a district high school during the four years of high school, as well as the autonomous high schools that formally badociate with the district. That includes just two charter schools now, Horizon Science Academy and Northeast Ohio College Preparatory School.

Does not include residents of other districts who attend a district school through open enrollment, but does include students who live in the Bratenahl, Brook Park, Linndale, Newburgh Heights, and Garfield Heights parts of the district .

The program also allows all current residents of the district who attend high schools in the district to be eligible for the first round of scholarships, even if they have not been in a district school for all four years. But after today, students must attend eligible schools during the four years of high school.

"We felt it was really unfair (to exclude the most recent members) and we are trying to get results quickly," Williams said.

Gordon said parents of 8th grade students can still choose high schools so their children can receive scholarships.

"You can still sign up this spring for the ninth grade clbad next year and be eligible," Gordon said.

There are no income rules for eligibility.

What do they get?

If the family income is less than $ 75,000 (most families in Cleveland), the Say Yes scholarship will cover all tuition costs at eligible two-year and four-year schools or recognized certificate programs.

If the family income is more than $ 75,000, the scholarship is limited to $ 5,000.

Families must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and all state and federal aid is used first, before the Say Yes money covers the gap.

For many low-income students, there will be no space to fill, or just a small one, but the scholarship guarantees that families do not have to pay tuition costs.

Authorities said there are approximately 125 Cleveland graduates a year who are accepted into school, but do not go because they can not afford them. Many more begin, but after the first year they decide they can not keep up with the bills, said Lee Friedman, CEO of College Now Greater Cleveland, the non-profit organization that handles college counseling for the district.

That is often due to an inability to pay the last thousands of fees that will now cover the scholarships.

"This is not a small thing," Friedman said. "It's a huge, huge thing."

Which universities are eligible?

All state colleges and universities and a list of 116 private schools that have joined Say Yes Compact. These include Ivy League colleges and several Ohio schools, including Ashland, Baldwin-Wallace, Case-Western, Denison, Dayton, John Carroll, Kenyon, Notre Dame College, Oberlin, Ohio Northern and Ohio Wesleyan and Wooster.

Wrapping services:

Cleveland schools already provide "wraparound" social services in about a quarter of their schools, after launching them for several major improvement schools a few years ago. Under Say yes, more schools will receive them, and also more services.

There is little new money budgeted for these added services and officials have yet to announce a detailed plan. Say Yes does not pay for these services, nor does the scholarship fund. Instead, the program aims to have existing agencies and not-for-profit organizations in the city better organized to guide services to help students.

The only new and immediate expense and the key to providing these services will be the hiring of social service coordinators known as "family support specialists" for all schools in the district, much like the "site coordinators" that are found. currently in the comprehensive schools. They will organize summer school, after school, tutoring and family programs for schools.

These coordinators will be paid by Cuyahoga County through federal grants for the well-being of children, said Matt Carroll, interim director of county human and health services.

This first step will be to add principals and basic services to schools for four years: 15% of schools in the fall, 25% next year and then 30% in years three and four.

Once they are in place at a school, officials will see where to add much larger services such as health and dental clinics at many of the schools in Buffalo and Syracuse.

Say Yes central office:

Although the school district is a major player in the Say Yes organization, the program will be independent, so it can continue even if the school leadership changes.

He has already hired Diane Downing as the local executive director. She will start work on February 12 and will be based on. The Say Yes office will be created from the main library in downtown Cleveland.

Downing, who worked with former Cleveland mayors, George Voinovich and Michael White, was recently the Executive Director of the host committee of the Republican National Convention for the 2016 convention in Cleveland.

The national Say Yes organization will pay for it, but Say Yes CEO Gene Chasin said he did not know what he will be paid.

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