New Haven Promise will dole out $323,807 in tuition checks this year — more than triple the amount the scholarship program distributed in 2011 — and at the same time relax its GPA requirements, administrators announced Wednesday.
The Promise program, which awards college tuition scholarships to New Haven public high school graduates and is funded by Yale, has been implementing a tiered phase-in system for students. Graduating seniors are eligible for different funding amounts based on how long they have been in high school since the program’s announcement, which is a driving factor behind this year’s spike in scholarship outlays, program administrators said. Promise students from the graduating class of 2011 receive up to 25 percent of the full scholarship award and incoming college freshmen from the class of 2012 receive up to 50 percent. A total of 220 students at 17 different colleges and universities across the state are receiving Promise scholarships, program administrators said.
“This renewed commitment to offer access to higher education is reassurance to our young people that, if they work hard and stay committed and dependable, then opportunities to maximize their full potential are inevitable,” said Dorsey Kendrick, president of Gateway Community College and a Promise board member.
Promise executive director Patricia Melton ’82 added that she is pleased with the size of the funding increase, as “it captures how the benefit will substantially grow until it reaches 100 percent in 2013-’14.”
But increased funding is not the only change Promise administrators are overseeing — the program’s board of directors has also decided to lower the GPA requirement Promise freshmen must meet in order to continue receiving the scholarship, Melton said. Previously, college students receiving Promise funds were required to maintain a 2.5 GPA, but that minimum has now been decreased to 2.0 for a recipient’s freshman year. Melton said the change will allow 17 current Promise beneficiaries to stay in the program.
“The change in GPA requirements for college freshmen recognizes the fact that the transition to college life can be challenging, both socially and academically,” said Mary Papazian, Southern Connecticut State University president and a Promise board member.
Though Promise administrators have previously said that high academic standards — such as a 3.0 high school GPA requirement — ensure that the program remains an achievement to be proud of, Melton maintained that the lower college freshman GPA requirements will not weaken the program.
“New Haven Promise requires a consistently strong performance in high school over four years, just as competitive colleges do,” Melton said. “We require that the GPA be met along with a sizeable community service and attendance criteria … It is still an achievement to be proud of to ‘win’ a New Haven Promise scholarship.”
Melton added that the new 2.0 GPA requirement is actually more aligned with achievement criteria at most colleges. She said that “it is universal across institutions that a 2.0 GPA is considered to be in good academic standing.”
New Haven Promise was announced on Nov. 8, 2010 at a ceremony at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School on Crown Street.