Light & Verity

Yale to fund college tuition for New Haven students

Chris Volpe

Chris Volpe

New Haven high school students were outfitted to help announce the city's new college tuition guarantee in November. View full image

"His idea, our money," President Richard Levin '74PhD exclaimed, throwing an arm across the shoulders of New Haven's mayor, John DeStefano Jr. "He's very good at spending other people's money."

With great fanfare, the pair were introducing New Haven Promise, a scholarship program for students in the city's troubled public schools, in November. DeStefano's idea is simple: every New Havener who graduates with good grades and good behavior will get a grant to cover tuition at an in-state public college. Yale will foot the bill, estimated at $250,000 the first year and up to $4 million annually when the program is fully phased in.

But New Haven Promise promises to do much more than spend Yale's money. A week after announcing the scholarship, DeStefano unveiled the New Haven Promise Partnership, an effort to prepare students to take advantage of the tuition offer. Most New Haven students—and their parents—need step-by-step help mapping out realistic routes to college. To that end, the city will partner with College Summit, a nonprofit organization founded and run by Yale alumnus J. B. Schramm '86.

The Washington, DC–based outfit helps school districts around the country to "raise their purpose from high school diplomas to college enrollment and success," Schramm says. In New Haven—a public school district of more than 20,000 students, about 1,000 of whom graduate each year—College Summit will work with high school students, teachers, and guidance counselors on college planning and applications, including essay writing.

The organization will also work with parents of kids as young as pre-kindergarten to outline their long-term paths. Academic success "doesn't happen magically," Schramm says. "It happens if somebody walks the student—walks each student—through the choices they need to make every day." That approach fits with New Haven's ambitious school-reform effort, which aims to boost standardized test scores, halve the 27 percent dropout rate, and help students attend and succeed in college.

To qualify for New Haven Promise, a student must maintain a B average, have a good attendance and disciplinary record, and perform community service. Recipients must maintain a 2.5 GPA in college. Yale has committed money only for the high school classes of 2011 to 2014, after which it will review the program annually. "We don't want to fund something that doesn't work," Levin says.

If it does work, he says, it's "a wise investment for Yale." And Yale will be looking for donors to help share that investment. That's a promise. 

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