Free tuition program begins work in local schools

Nathan Lesch, Staff Reporter

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In January, Say Yes to Education announced Cleveland would become the fourth city to host a Say Yes to Education community chapter. Cleveland joins Syracuse and Buffalo, New York and Guilford County, North Carolina as the only places with community chapters. Say Yes to Education is an organization that provides free tuition to partner colleges and universities for all students who graduate from affiliated communities.

According to their website, Say Yes to Education works to “revitalize communities by helping them give every public high school graduate access to college or other post secondary scholarships.”

Cleveland’s community chapter has been in development for over two years. All the funds for tuition must be raised by the communities’ Say Yes for Education services because the organization only provides $15 million for the program’s organizational and administrative costs.

According to Madeline Rife, director of the mentoring program at College Now Greater Cleveland, Say Yes to Education offers residents of Cleveland a great opportunity and may be able to break the cycle of poverty in Cleveland.

“It will take a lot of dedicated effort over decades, but the community is behind this—as evidenced by the successful fundraising effort, and the successful drive for mentors—and we have the right infrastructure in place to truly realize the vision of supporting students and their families all the way through their educational journeys,” Rife said.

Say Yes to Education’s programs have been successful previously. Students from Say Yes to Education schools graduate from college at a rate of 72 percent, which is almost twice the rate of students who receive the Pell Grant.

Rife also believes Cleveland’s community chapter will have an effect on Case Western Reserve University since CWRU is a partner school in the Say Yes Higher Education Compact.

“This [program] will bring more students to Case’s campus who may have grown up just off campus, but previously wouldn’t have been able to access such a resource,” says Rife.

Members of the CWRU community can support Say Yes to Education by seeking personal connections to the program and participating in the mentorship program.

“Mentors form a personal connection to students, and help them persist in school and be successful through the ups and downs of college,” Rife explained.

Mentors are required to have already graduated from college, so only faculty or administrators can participate in the mentorship program.

“[However], students already on campus can also make a difference by reaching back and helping to guide the incoming freshmen through the experiences they themselves just lived through,” according to Rife. “Whether that’s mentoring, friendship or just helping augment the spirit of welcome on campus, it will all have an effect.”