Despite lack of information, alums support NH Promise

Yale alumni interviewed this week expressed support for the New Haven Promise — once they learned what it is.

Until the News contacted them, none of the eight alums interviewed by phone said they had heard of New Haven Promise, the joint initiative between Yale and New Haven to provide scholarships for New Haven high school students attending Connecticut colleges and universities. Six reacted positively to the program when provided with details, but two had reservations about the program’s cost to the University. University President Richard Levin said Yale will formally announce the program to alumni in the next month and start fundraising to pay for the program.

Last Tuesday, Levin and Mayor John DeStefano Jr. announced the New Haven Promise in a press conference at the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School on College Street to an audience that included New Haven public school students. But alumni will have to wait until they receive their copy of the November issue of ELine, the monthly alumni newsletter, for an announcement tailored to them. Levin said this month’s issue will feature an article explaining the program, and that fundraising efforts will start soon.

“We’ve been starting to seek some support for it,” Levin said. “I’m pretty confident we’ll get support.”

David Baron ’86 expressed concerns about Yale’s choice to spend its money on this program. Baron said New Haven Promise sounds like a worthy program, but added that he would be interested in hearing more about the financial side of the project.

“If Yale is spending money on this, what is Yale choosing not to spend money on?” Baron asked.

Yale will soon begin to seek donors to support New Haven Promise, said Inge Reichenbach, vice president of development, in an e-mail Monday. Levin said Yale will use money specifically donated for the New Haven Promise to fund the scholarships, which will cost the University $4 million per year starting in the 2017-’18 academic year.

Because the funding will increase gradually to its full level, Yale will not face the final cost of New Haven Promise for seven years, Levin said. The University will eventually pay the full cost of public university tuition — about $8,000 at the University of Connecticut or $3,500 at schools in the Connecticut State University system — and provide $2,500 towards tuition at private Connecticut universities, or to students receiving support from other scholarships. Levin said the University will proportionally increase support for high school students, paying only 25 percent of tuition for current seniors, 50 percent of tuition for current juniors and so on. Levin estimates that one fully funded class of students will cost the University $1 million per year, adding that the first-year cost for current seniors will be about $250,000.

Levin said his discretionary spending fund will cover these costs until Yale raises funds to cover the entire amount.

Janet Kraus ’88 said the initiative comes at a critical time, given that last year’s national financial crisis is just beginning to lift.

“This is exactly what we need in an economic recession,” she said, adding that “making this statement in this moment is even more powerful.”

Ellen Kornmehl ’84 said she thinks building and sustaining a sense of community between Yale and New Haven is crucial. After being informed of the program, Kornmehl said she thinks it will improve the University’s relationship with the city.

Two alumni who supported the University’s involvement in the program said they are surprised Yale had not started a project like the New Haven Promise sooner than this year.

Mary Hess ’85 said she is glad to see Yale acknowledge that its future is interconnected with the New Haven community’s, adding that “it’s about time!”

While Levin said the University has started to reach out to alums for support, Reichenbach said it is too early to predict the response Yale will receive from donors.

Still, she added, Yale will try to raise funds at the same rate as Yale’s increasing financial support for the program.

“Obviously, the seven-year threshold is an important benchmark for us and we will try to do as much fund raising as possible in this period of time,” Reichenbach said in an e-mail.

New Haven Public School students will be eligible for a full scholarship to any Connecticut state college or university if they maintain a 3.0 grade point average in high school and a 2.5 grade point average in college. Among the other requirements, they also need to complete 40 hours of community service before they graduate and have an attendance rate of 90 percent.

The New Haven Promise is modeled after similar programs in Kalamazoo, Mich. and Pittsburgh, Penn.


  • The Anti-Yale

    Don’t forget: throw in a Negroponte computer for every student in New Haven.

  • River Tam

    @PK: What is the root of your utter obsession with the “Negroponte computer” (aka the XO-1)? Most children in the New Haven public schools have cell phones more powerful than the XO-1. It is designed to run in environments where access to sources of electricity and internet are scarce. It comes with a hand-crank power generator and was designed for children who’d never been exposed to computers before, in places with poor or no IT infrastructure. It is unquestionably the WRONG choice for the New Haven public school system. Its remarkable advantages in third world countries are crippling handicaps in the United States.

    If we’re going to teach students in New Haven how to use computers (and it’s debatable whether or not this is useful when they can’t read, but let’s ignore that for now….), we might as well give them a Nook e-Reader for $149 that comes complete with web browser, chess, sudoku, music software, and is NOT built for a third world country.

  • ygrd

    This “promise” is no more than a PR stunt. Real, lasting effects will be minimal or nonexistent.

  • Yale12

    I agree with River Tam. The Negroponte computer is completely worthless to most students today and would be a silly waste of money. As usual, though, once PK gets an idea in his head, he will continue to hammer it into our heads on the boards of every single tangentially related article he can find.