Three Ivies join low-income student aid program

Cornell University, Princeton University and Dartmouth University are among 11 private institutions that last week joined the Say Yes to Education Inc. Compact, an agreement to provide low-income students with an affordable path through college, but Yale has yet to sign onto the initiative.

Say Yes provides students from low-income, urban backgrounds from kindergarten to 12th grade with academic and social support and guarantees college tuition upon graduation from high school. Say Yes founder George Weiss and long-time supporter Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced the new schools in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 18, bringing total members of the Higher Education Compact to 54. Yale Dean of Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan and Say Yes Senior Vice President of Higher Education and Communications Jacques Steinberg both said a dialogue has begun between Say Yes and Yale about a potential partnership, but no formal agreement has been reached.

“We’ve only started conversations with the organization recently, but it’s obviously an organization that’s had success in Syracuse and other places, and an organization that we’d be interested in talking more with,” Quinlan said.

Based in New York City, Say Yes serves almost 65,000 public and charter school students who live in urban areas such as Syracuse, Hartford and Philadelphia. For students from families with incomes of less than $75,000, Say Yes pays full tuition for students attending public two- or four-year colleges in New York state. Private schools that partner with Say Yes typically pledge to waive tuition for admitted Say Yes students in this income bracket.

Quinlan said he thinks it is particularly important for Yale to partner with organizations such as Say Yes because research shows that prospective students and their families respond to broader messages about affording education that include institutions beyond just Yale.

Recruiting students from low-income families and communicating with them about the University often work best when peer institutions collaborate and discuss college admissions in general, Quinlan added.

“There is much more power in talking about it in a larger group,” he said. “It’s very important that we keep our eyes out for these types of institutions.”

Steinberg, who coordinates the Say Yes Higher Education Compact that the Ivy League schools recently joined, said the organization would be pleased to talk to Yale on a more formal basis about becoming a partner.

“I am very hopeful that the conversation will continue,” Steinberg said. “The only reason we have not yet formally approached Yale is because of time. I only began working at Say Yes earlier this year.”

Admissions officials at Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and Cornell, all partner schools of Say Yes, expressed similar motives for pursuing relationships with outside organizations.

Thomas Keane, director of financial aid for scholarships and policy analysis at Cornell, said in an email to the News that Cornell sees its partnership with Say Yes as beneficial because it supplements its own recruiting efforts. Marlene Bruno, the financial services spokeswoman for the University of Pennsylvania, agreed and said the parternship helps Penn identify and communicate with high-achieving, low-income students the school may not have otherwise reached.

“These partnerships are one way in which the University aims to engage outstanding yet underserved students with high potential who might not otherwise have the opportunity to go to Penn,” Bruno said in her email.

Caesar Storlazzi, Yale’s director of financial aid, said outside institutions may provide a similar type of assurance as Say Yes to students from the start.

“[Students] can’t imagine how they could possibly afford the $62,000 price tag per year, and organizations such as QuestBridge [another institution that connects low-income students with higher education opportunities] help students understand that upfront,” he said.

Students such as Wafa Muflahi ’17 said specific information and a guarantee of tuition, as provided by Say Yes, would have been useful in the admissions and financial aid process.

Muflahi said Yale’s online financial aid calculator and information from college counselors left her uncertain as to exactly how much aid she would receive, which turned out to be $8,000 less per year than she had originally estimated. Muflahi said organizations such as Say Yes, which guarantee a certain amount of aid to urban students such as herself, could be extremely helpful.

Say Yes to Education Higher Education Compact colleges include Columbia University, Harvard University, Rice University, Pomona College, Duke University and Georgetown University.

Comments