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National Effort Helps Low-Income Students Apply, Graduate from College

Healy Gates

Georgetown Student Financial Services Dean Patricia McWade says the efforts of Say Yes to Education Inc., are “very much aligned with Georgetown’s Jesuit mission to improve access to education and we are delighted to be part of this important and much-needed effort.”

June 11, 2013 – The university has joined with Harvard College and other schools as the newest participants in a national organization’s effort to help children from low-income school districts succeed academically, receive scholarships and graduate from college.

Say Yes to Education Inc., a nonprofit based in New York City, is “committed to dramatically increasing high school and college graduation rates for our nation’s inner-city youth.”

The program, created by financial manager and philanthropist George Weiss, is similar in mission to the university’s Georgetown Scholarship Program (GSP), which for the past nine years has provided eligible students, often from urban areas and the first to go to college, with scholarships and a comprehensive support system.

GSP and Say Yes

“We raised money from loyal alumni … so we could provide loan relief to our students,” says student financial services dean Patricia McWade about GSP. “The first year we raised $1 million and accepted 50 kids. This year we have 600. And most of them are the first generation to go to college.”

While GSP pays particular attention to these students during their freshman year and afterward, Say Yes starts much earlier – providing mentoring, tutoring, family services, legal help, health care and mental health counseling support starting in kindergarten.

The Say Yes organization sticks with the students through all grade levels, then provides scholarships to college and continues to help them through graduation.

A No-brainer

“They (Say Yes) get kids into college and provide them with scholarships,” McWade explains. “And they ask schools that provide scholarship aid to join with them and help fund these kids. So it was a no-brainer for us because we already do that with our meeting full need policy.”

Georgetown’s need-blind admissions policy guarantees that eligible students are admitted without regard to their ability to pay.

Under the policy, students with demonstrated financial need are able to attend the university through a mixture of scholarships, grants, work-study and loans.

Jesuit Mission

McWade also notes that the Say Yes goals are “very much aligned with Georgetown’s Jesuit mission to improve access to education and we are delighted to be part of this important and much-needed effort.” 

The University of Notre Dame, Northwestern University and Duke University are also recent Say Yes compact members.

Based in New York City, Say Yes notes that it serves nearly 65,000 children in kindergarten through 12th grade in five Northeastern cities, and has been working with the Syracuse school district since 2008.

Hopeful Compact

“The Say Yes Compact is about hope,” Weiss said in a statement, “and with the addition of these five terrific universities to our already impressive list, their commitment helps send the message of hope to our young men and women in Syracuse, and in our other cities as well."

Between 2009 and 2012 Say Yes reports a nearly 33 percent increase in the number of Syracuse public high school students who go on to college – from 437 in 2009 to 579 in 2012.

The nonprofit also notes that about 90 percent of Say Yes students in private, four-year colleges advanced from their freshman to sophomore year last year, while the average nationally is only 67 percent.

“If Say Yes will help us to identify more students who might be eligible to get into Georgetown and they’re high need, first-generation college-going students, then we’d be funding them anyway and these kids would come, ideally, better prepared having had this (Say Yes) experience,” McWade says.

To learn more about Say Yes to Education Inc., go to the nonprofit's website. For Say Yes Syracuse: www.sayyessyracuse.org.

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