Yale to fund scholarships for New Haven students

Photo by Sarah Sullivan.

University President Richard Levin and Mayor John DeStefano Jr. stood on the stage of Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School on College Street Tuesday morning to announce a joint initiative that will provide an opportunity for New Haven public school students to attend college without paying tuition.

University President Richard Levin and Connecticut governor-elect Dan Malloy discuss the New Haven Promise program.
University President Richard Levin and Connecticut governor-elect Dan Malloy discuss the New Haven Promise program.

With state and local officials in tow, Levin and DeStefano announced the establishment of New Haven Promise, a scholarship program primarily funded by Yale that guarantees New Haven public school students who meet certain performance standards a full ride to any state college or university in Connecticut. In his speech, Levin told a crowd that included freshmen from several city high schools that Yale has agreed to support the mayor’s education reform efforts by giving students a financial incentive to perform in high school: Students are eligible for the scholarship if they are residents of New Haven and maintain a 3.0 grade point average throughout high school and a 2.5 in college. They must also have an attendance rate of at least 90 percent, complete 40 hours of community service before they graduate and not be expelled.

“If you do your part, and you work hard and excel in school, we’ll do our part to make sure you have the resources you need to achieve your full potential,” Levin said.

New Haven Promise, which will be administered by the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, will start at 25 percent funding for current high school seniors and will reach full funding when current freshmen graduate. City officials and educators have praised it as a tool in promoting college enrollment among graduates of the city’s public high schools, which currently stands at about 50 percent.

Starting with current high school freshmen who meet the eligibility requirements, the program will pay for 100 percent of tuition each year for those attending a state college or university. In-state tuition is about $8,000 at the University of Connecticut and $3,500 for members of the Connecticut State University System. The program will also pay up to $2,500 to students whose tuition is covered under other scholarships and to students who will attend private colleges in Connecticut, including Yale.

The announcement, preceded by a press release calling it “the most significant announcement ever to be made in New Haven,” was also the first occasion for Democratic governor-elect Dan Malloy to publicly discuss a topic of statewide importance after last week’s highly disputed gubernatorial race. Malloy took the opportunity to speak about structural problems in the state’s economy that have prevented Connecticut from “taking our share of national economic growth.”

New Haven Promise, he said, represents a commitment to ensuring that an educated workforce will be available for the jobs that will be critical to the state’s future prosperity.

“Getting it right in New Haven sets the stage for a reinvigorated state of Connecticut,” Malloy said.

In an interview Monday, Levin said negotiations for Yale to support New Haven Promise began about a year ago, shortly after New Haven’s teachers’ union agreed to a new contract. The new contract represented a breakthrough in school reform that Levin said was unique in the state. The mayor, he said, felt that instituting New Haven Promise was an essential supplement to his reform efforts in the city’s public schools, known as School Change.

At a press conference after the event, Levin said the University expects to be contributing at a rate of $4 million annually after seven years. The financial commitment is “totally new money,” Levin said, and comes at a time of increased budgetary constraints for the University.

The University has so far only committed to paying for the first four classes graduating from the New Haven Public Schools. Afterward, the program will be renewed each year for incoming freshmen provided that the program accomplishes its mission, Levin said.

He added that the program reflects Yale’s own approach to admissions.

“At Yale, we admit students for academic and personal promise, regardless of their ability to pay,” he said. “This program is a natural extension of that philosophy.”

There are currently about 20 similar scholarship programs in the nation, with Kalamazoo, Mich., in particular serving as a model for New Haven. Kalamazoo Promise guarantees 100 percent tuition for Kalamazoo students who enroll in a state college or university and maintain a 2.0 GPA while there.

“This is not a handout — you will have to work hard to earn your grades,” DeStefano told the nearly 200 high school freshmen in attendance before asking them, “Guys, can we do this?”

The students responded with a resounding “Yes.”

Ward 1 Alderman Michael Jones ’11 said he was glad the University is willing to step up despite limited resources and added that Yale’s investment in New Haven’s public school students represented awareness that the fates of the University and the city are intertwined.

“The university we love cannot be great if it is not located in a great city,” Jones said.

The city has launched a website, ournewhaven.org, which will serve to communicate with the public about School Change and New Haven Promise.


  • The Anti-Yale

    Very good.
    Now spread out to the poverty sections and offer free Negroponte computers to all kids attending school who want them.

  • Sara

    The majority of children born in this country are non-white, and a lot of them are born into poverty. Combine that with the fact that only 10% of black boys are succeeding in school (according to standardized tests – see NYTimes article yesterday), and the fact that people born into poverty are likely to stay in poverty (despite our myth of upward mobility), and you can see that if this country is in deep trouble if it doesn’t recognize where its future workforce is coming from and do something about it. Providing free college is just a tiny first step, and nowhere near enough.

    As things currently stand, only a tiny fraction of New Haven kids will be eligible for this grant – like other cities, the others drop out or don’t finish college.

    For example, of the 1,472 Black students who earned a high school diploma from the Boston Public Schools in 2000, only 249 of those students received a college degree by the spring of 2007. Similarly, only 74 of the 581 Hispanic high school graduates earned a college degree during that same time period.

  • Quals

    Only have to maintain a 2.5 GPA in a state college? I’m a grad student who went to a state college (on scholarships) , and let me tell you, my dyslexic cat could keep that GPA there. I’m all for scholarships, but they should have reasonable targets, or they won’t last, and then deserving students will lose out.

  • The Anti-Yale


    Negroponte computers will cost $75.00 a piece.

    New Haven School District
    Total Number of Students: 19981

    Grade Level: PK – 12
    Total Number of Schools:48

    Do the math:
    19981 x $75.00 = $1,498,575.00

    (I’d bet Yale makes more in one month on it investments than this amount.)

  • River Tam


    Cheap computers get misused, just as expensive computers do. You’d be better off buying 5 books for each kid at that price.

  • Yale12

    @Quals, believe it or not, not everybody is blessed with having an education that prepares them adequately for college like yours did. New Haven public schools are pretty poor on average, and students coming out of some high schools, while they are certainly smart enough to go to college, will probably not be very well prepared for difficult college-level work. I came to Yale from a poor inner-city school in which I had never taken a final exam and never written a paper more than 4 pages long. It made the transition to college very difficult, and my first-semester grades suffered (granted, not below a 3.0, but let’s be honest, state schools don’t have the level of grade inflation that Yale does). Having a higher GPA requirement would probably alienate a lot of highly intelligent New Haven students who struggle to adjust to college in their freshman years – I personally know several smart, hardworking kids who are apparently worse than your “dyslexic cat,” because they simply did not know how to function with college-level work and ended up getting very poor GPAs freshman year despite visiting tutors and talking with professors.

    Remember, a high percentage of low-income students simply drop out of college. While that has many causes, it has a lot to do with an inability to cope with college-level work when coming out of poor schools. The idea here is to keep these low-income kids in college, not just to get them there.

  • The Anti-Yale

    One computer per kid per year. If it is lost, the kid pays.

  • Yale12

    PK – Because it’s completely reasonable to expect a family that can’t even provide their children with a single solid meal a day to pay $75 if their kid loses a computer.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Ok—Then swallow the cost. Every year the kid gets a new computer. The returned ones are used for replacing the losses. Where there’s a will their a way.

    It’s only a million dollars a year for EVERY kid in New Haven Schools.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Ok—Then swallow the cost. Every year the kid gets a new computer. The returned ones are used for replacing the losses. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

    It’s only a million dollars a year for EVERY kid in New Haven Schools.

  • Yale12

    I just don’t see there being a “will.” The “will” should be directed towards better-organized classrooms, better parent support and more involvement, longer school days, better pay for teachers, etc., etc. Those, to me, are (and should be) much higher priorities.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “Education is about catching fire.” William Butler Yeats

    ” . . . better-organized classrooms, better parent support and more involvement, longer school days, better pay for teachers, etc . . .”

    These adjustments are about the woodshed, not about the fire.

  • Quals

    @Yale12, you raise good points, but I remain unconvinced. Why not have staggered requirements: 2.5 for year 1, 2.7 year 2, 3.0 year 3, 3.2 year 4?

  • Yale12

    And a bunch of cheap computers are about the fire? What are you talking about?