Say Yes to Education Adds 10 Colleges and Universities as Partners

Program Offers Urban Youth Prospect of Free Tuition
Friday, December 6, 2013

NEW YORK, NY, -- Say Yes to Education, the national nonprofit group that helps organize and galvanize entire cities around making higher education accessible and affordable for the children in their communities, announced Friday that 10 colleges and universities had agreed to join the effort as new partners.

The institutions are: Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Mass.; Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri; Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island; Williams College, in Williamstown, Mass.; Smith College, in Northampton, Mass.; Trinity College, in Hartford, Conn.; Kenyon College, in Gambier, Ohio; Muhlenberg College, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Northeastern University in Boston.

In joining the Say Yes Higher Education Compact, private colleges and universities agree to ensure that the neediest of the students served by the organization  -- typically those whose annual family income is at or below $75,000 -- are eligible, at a minimum, to attend tuition-free, provided they successfully navigate the institution’s regular admission process.  Say Yes students whose family income is above $75,000 and who are enrolled in a Compact institution are eligible to receive annual grants from the organization itself of up to $5,000.

The first students eligible to apply under the new partnership agreements are those seeking to enroll in college in Fall 2014. 

     With the addition of its new partner institutions, the Say Yes Compact now has 64 private colleges and universities as members, including Harvard, Duke, Syracuse University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Rochester, Notre Dame, Rice, Cornell and Medaille College.

Say Yes’s tuition benefits and other supports (which may include tutoring, after-school services, counseling and legal assistance) are available to the families of nearly 65,000 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 in every public school in Buffalo and Syracuse, New York.  The organization expects to expand to additional cities in the coming years. 

Say Yes, which has its headquarters in New York City, was founded in 1987 by money manager George Weiss. For its first 20 years it offered an array of services – and ultimately full-tuition college scholarships – to smaller groups of public school students. While Say Yes adopted a citywide approach in 2008, college scholarships are still available to several hundred students in the organization’s earlier chapters in Harlem in New York City; Philadelphia and Hartford, Conn.

In expressing her gratitude to the new members of its Higher Education Compact, Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, the president of Say Yes, noted that each institution made available a safety net of academic advising and other mentoring for students from low-income households -- including those who may be among the first in their families to attend college - consistent with the mission of the organization.

“It is not enough just to give a student a scholarship, a philosophy we are pleased to see embraced by our new partners, several of whom are led by individuals who were themselves among the first in their families to graduate from college,’’ Ms. Schmitt-Carey said. "We thank all the members of the Say Yes Higher Education Compact for standing with us as we seek to ensure that our students can receive a post-secondary education, pay for it and possess the necessary tools to persist through graduation.” 

In Syracuse and Buffalo, graduates of the cities’ public high schools are also eligible, regardless of family income, for up to 100 percent of the tuition needed to attend any public, two- or four-year college or university in New York State to which they are accepted. The scholarships are funded by local donors – including individuals, families, foundations and businesses -- in Syracuse and Buffalo.

More than 3,000 high school graduates have gone off to college with Say Yes supports since its inception. In Syracuse and Buffalo, Say Yes works in partnership with local elected officials, business leaders, community-based organizations and local universities – as well as students, parents, school administrators, teachers and counselors.

See below for comments from new members of the Say Yes Higher Education Compact. For a full list of higher education partners and to learn more about Say Yes to Education, go to



Jeremiah Quinlan, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Yale University

“Yale is proud to partner with Say Yes to Education. For fifty years, Yale’s financial aid policies have ensured that costs are never a barrier for students who gain admission to Yale. The partnership with Say Yes will help college-bound students see that a Yale education is financially accessible, and will aid incoming students as they navigate the transition to college.  We share Say Yes’s commitment to making higher education accessible and affordable to all students.”    

Debra Shaver, Dean of Admission, Smith College

“Smith College is thrilled to partner with Say Yes to Education. Joining the Higher Education Compact strengthens Smith's already deep commitment to providing access to first-generation and low-income women of promise.  The Say Yes model is extraordinary, both in its scope of partnerships throughout the cities it serves and in the comprehensive support it offers to all students and their families.”

Julie M. Shimabukuro, Director, Office of Undergraduate Admissions, Washington University in St. Louis

“Washington University is delighted to become a Say Yes compact partner as we expand our outreach efforts to recruit and support talented students. We look forward to getting to know the Say Yes students and to helping them learn more about the broad college opportunities that are available to them here.”

Richard L. Nesbitt, Director of Admission, Williams College

“We are pleased to join the Say Yes partner schools committed to making college affordable for all.”

Jennifer Delahunty, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Kenyon College

"Kenyon is absolutely delighted to partner with Say Yes on enrolling talented students of all backgrounds. This kind of partnership will create an important pipeline from high school to college for students who are so very deserving but who have the most difficult row to hoe."

Larry Dow, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Trinity College 

"Trinity College is pleased to join a wide range of institutions that view this program as we do — a potentially life-changing opportunity for students from low-income families to receive a first-rate college education. We're happy to be on board."