The nonprofit organization works with communities and colleges to make higher education tuition-free for students in participating locations.
The George Washington University has partnered with the nonprofit organization Say Yes to Education to provide full-tuition scholarships for public high school students from participating chapters in New York and North Carolina.
Say Yes to Education began in 1987 when businessman George Weiss, who now chairs the program, promised to pay for 112 Philadelphia sixth graders to attend college if they graduated from high school. The program now has chapters in Syracuse and Buffalo, and it launched a third in Guilford County, North Carolina, after local community members raised $32 million for the scholarship fund. The program announced GW’s involvement and the new inclusion of Guilford County last week.
Individuals, businesses and organizations in the three participating communities raise money to provide scholarships for low- to middle-income students who graduate from public schools in those areas. More than 5,000 Say Yes students have attended college since the community-wide programs began in 2008, and there are currently about 140,000 students eligible for Say Yes scholarships.
“We are excited to be one of only 100 private colleges and universities to join the Say Yes to Education organization in their efforts to make higher education more accessible to outstanding students regardless of family income,” said Laurie Koehler, GW’s senior associate provost for enrollment management.
In joining the Say Yes Higher Education Compact, GW will ensure that students at the participating program sites whose annual family income is at or below $75,000 will attend tuition-free, provided they successfully navigate the regular admission process. In addition, students who enroll at GW from a Say Yes community and have annual family incomes higher than $75,000 will be awarded a $5,000 per year scholarship from Say Yes.
“As someone who could not have attended college without a scholarship, I know firsthand how transformative that commitment can be in the life of a young person,’’ said Mr. Weiss, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. “I am especially gratified today to see the way Guilford County has embraced the promise of Say Yes. I also thank Say Yes’ 100 private college and university partners for standing with us.”
The university’s partnership with Say Yes is part of its larger commitment to make college accessible to those who are first-generation college students, as well as students from low-income communities or from underrepresented backgrounds, Ms. Koehler said.
She cited GW’s longstanding Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholars program, which awards up to 10 full scholarships each year for exceptional students from the District, as well as GW’s new test-optional admission policy, as other important steps toward this goal. George Washington President Steven Knapp formed a university-wide Task Force on Access and Success in January 2014 to look for new ways to encourage high school students to attend college, to support their financial need and to ensure their success.