After a year of touting his plans for a city-sponsored college scholarship program, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has finally established who will receive the first round of funding from the so-called “Promise Program” — the New Haven public high school class of 2011.
At a back-to-school celebration at John C. Daniels School on Friday, DeStefano said the scholarship program will begin sometime next year. City Hall Spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said Wednesday that the city will launch the program for the next school year, providing college funds to the graduating high school seniors of the class of 2011.
Although City Hall officials are keeping the particulars of the program under wraps, Mayorga said concrete information about who qualifies for the program, and how much money each recipient will receive, will be released in the next several months.
DeStefano has talked about his plans for a city-sponsored scholarship program since October of last year, and at last February’s State of the City address, he reiterated his commitment to such a program.
“This program is a smart investment and a clear reflection of our city’s values,” DeStefano said in a February interview. “Wealth creation comes about through an investment in human capital.”
Mayorga said a dependable funding source has been lined up, but she said she could neither give any further details nor identify whether the funding source was public or private.
“We’re comfortable that we’re going to be able to do this,” Mayorga said.
DeStefano has not identified the funding source to the Board of Aldermen, Ward 1 Alderwoman Rachel Plattus ’09 said. Still, Plattus said she is happy the scholarship program is finally coming to fruition.
“I think that the situation with school reform is that it’s constantly evolving, and it’s certainly exciting that we’re talking about doing [the Promise Program] this year,” Plattus said. “It’s great that funding is now available.”
When DeStefano began discussing his plans for the Promise Program at greater length last spring, certain details became clear. The scholarships would be awarded to New Haven public high school students based on their academic performance, behavioral record and years of residency. All New Haven residents would qualify for the program, regardless of immigration status. And the program will only pay for tuition, not the cost of room or board, with the highest amount awarded equal to the cost of tuition at the most expensive Connecticut public school, currently the University of Connecticut at $7,632 a year for in-state students.
But details, such as what constitutes “high academic achievement” and “good behavior,” remain unclear.
New Haven Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Wade said that while the mayor has likely mentioned plans for the scholarship fund in closed-door school reform meetings with local school officials, there has been no formal communication between NHPS and the Mayor’s Office on the Promise Program. University of Connecticut Spokesman Michael Kirk said DeStefano has not contacted the school’s financial aid office about the scholarship program.
The Promise Program is part of New Haven’s comprehensive package for school reform that will also include programs to improve teacher quality and increase resources for public schools in order to lower the achievement gap and reduce the high school dropout rate, Mayorga said.