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New program to offer New Haven public school grads free college tuition

By Jenna Johnson
Jenna Johnson

New Haven is home to Yale University -- an Ivy League school that has a $16.3 billion endowment and five alum who went on to become U.S. presidents. The university is the city's top employer, top taxpayer and top tourist attraction.

The Connecticut town also is home to a struggling public school system that is undergoing a reform campaign, in part, because of its 27.4 percent drop out rate.

Tuesday the city and Yale announced New Haven Promise, a program that will provide graduates of the city's public high schools free tuition to any public college or university in the state. To qualify, students must have a 3.0 GPA, 90 percent attendance rate, positive discipline record and complete 40 hours of community service.

Yale is mostly funding the program, which is expected to cost about $4.5 million each year, The New York Times reports. Last year about 200 of the city's 1,000 graduates would have qualified.

The university has committed to funding the program for its first four years and, after that, it will renew its commitment on an annual basis if the program proves to be effective, the Yale Daily News reported.

The program is not the first of its kind in the country, reports the New Haven Register. In 2005, The Kalamazoo Promise launched and a group of anonymous donors began to pick up the tab for public school graduates to attend state-funded universities or community colleges. In 2007, a similar program started in Pittsburgh.

The idea of such programs is to give kids a shot at success in life by ensuring all students a chance to go to college. But experts say the success of universal scholarship programs lies not in the promise of free college tuition, but in improved efforts to mentor, teach and cultivate aspirations for college among all students.

Yale sophomore Nate Zelinsky was critical of the new program in a Daily News column titled, "An empty Promise." The New Haven school system does a poor job of preparing its students for college, he said, a problem that could be better fixed by firing under-performing teachers, abolishing tenure and hiring devoted teachers.

New Haven Promise whitewashes the true problem in New Haven. We should not care about how many New Haven students we send to college, but rather how many we send to college prepared.

You can read more about the New Haven Promise, in the Yale Daily News, New York Times, New Haven Register and Chronicle of Higher Education.

By Jenna Johnson  | November 10, 2010; 9:51 AM ET
Categories:  News Overload  | Tags:  Yale  
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The state of Georgia has been doing this for all its students for over 5 years. All students with a B average or above get free tuition to any public school in the state. It also had the side effect of massively improving the quality of students at State schools like The University of Georgia.

Any modern country serious about providing true "equal opportunity" should provide free tuition for all students. The USA really lags behind on this, though it's amusing that a state like Georgia was at the forefront.

Posted by: cassander | November 10, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Georgia has been doing this for over 15 years. All students with a B average or higher in Georgia get free tuition to any public school in the state. As a side effect, it also massively raised the quality of students at State universities like The University of Georgia.

Any country serious about "equal opportunity" should provide free tutition for all.

Posted by: cassander | November 10, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

The opinion piece by Yale student Mr. Zelinsky referenced here does not at all represent opinion on campus or in New Haven. The City is in fact doing real education reform -- reconstituted 3 schools, for example, and put in real teacher assessment. That sole Yale student, whose a legacy admit and graduate of an elite private high school even older than Yale, likes to throw stones. Maybe he should put down his hypercritical elite pen and walk a mile in some of his neighbor's shoes for a change.

Posted by: NewHavener1 | November 10, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

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