Nearly half of all New Haven high school seniors applied to receive one of the inaugural New Haven Promise scholarships, New Haven Public Schools spokeswoman Betsy Yagla announced in a Tuesday press release.

Three hundred and sixty of the 848 public school seniors who reside in New Haven applied for the partially Yale-funded scholarship by the March 1 deadline, a 42 percent participation rate that left city and University administrators singing the program’s praises. How many of these 360 applicants ultimately receive the scholarship will be announced later this spring, the release stated.

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“It is gratifying to see our students responding so positively to the New Haven Promise,” University President Richard Levin said in the statement. “Our colleges and universities are the nation’s principal avenue of upward social mobility, and we want more of our young people in New Haven to have the lifetime benefits higher education brings.”

University and city administrators joined in a celebratory press conference last November to announce the program. Through the Promise, Yale pledges to pay full tuition at in-state public universities and partial tuition at in-state private universities for any student and New Haven resident who has at least a 3.0 GPA and has demonstrated “good civic behavior.”

But this first wave of applicants will not receive the full Promise scholarship, regardless of their qualifications; students in the class of 2011 are eligible for only 25 percent of the funding, as the program will not launch in full until the class of 2014 graduates. Until then, students will be eligible for only partial scholarships.

When it was first announced last November, the Promise scholarship was billed as a major stepping stone to improving New Haven’s education system. In a November press release teasing the program’s announcement, then-City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga called the Promise program “the most significant announcement ever made in New Haven.” Levin, Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander ’65 and Gov. Dannel Malloy, along with other local and state officials, were on hand for the announcement.

“Getting it right in New Haven sets the stage for a reinvigorated state of Connecticut,” Malloy said at the November ceremony, which was held at the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School on Crown Street.

Tuition at the University of Connecticut is $8,000 a year, and at Connecticut State University system is $3,500 a year. When the Promise program is up and running, Levin estimates the scholarship will cost the University around $4 million a year. Levin has promised to support the program for at least four years, and that the University will renew its support for the program each year provided the program accomplishes its mission.

Currently, 50 percent of New Haven Public School seniors head to college after graduation, and as many as 27 percent drop out each year.