National nonprofit Say Yes to Education has announced the opening of its newest chapter in Guilford County, North Carolina, which allows access to a free college education for thousands of students independent of their family’s income.
The program will offer free tuition to any graduate of a Guilford County school as long as they have spent a few years within the school system and are attending a public college or university in-state. The funds will be available for 2016, allowing this year’s senior class to participate.
“Hearing this totally changes the game,” said Ragsdale senior Olivia Wilhelm. “It’s always been ‘Oh, I’m just going to look at the schools that cost less,'” she said. “But this totally opens up so many new doors.”
Say Yes will pay 100% of the total cost of attending an in-state public college that is not already met through federal or state aid. Some private schools are covered as well, with 100 institutions across 22 states agreeing to participate if the family’s total income is less than $75,000, reports Sarah Kreuger for FOX8.
Say Yes to Education partners with communities and colleges in an effort to promote greater access to higher education. The majority of the students in Guilford County come from low-income families, as well as backgrounds that are historically underrepresented at colleges and universities nationwide. Students in the county come from over 79 countries and speak almost 100 different languages.
“As someone who could not have attended college without a scholarship, I know first hand how transformative that commitment can be in the life of a young person,’’ said George Weiss, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who founded Say Yes in 1987 when he promised to help 112 Philadelphia sixth-graders to graduate high school and pay for their higher education.
“I am especially gratified today to see the way Guilford County has embraced the promise of Say Yes,” said George, a money manager with offices in New York City and Hartford, Conn., and chairman of Say Yes. “I also thank Say Yes’ 100 private college and university partners for standing with us.”
The county will become the third chapter for the program which first began in Syracuse, New York in 2008. A second chapter was opened in Buffalo, New York in 2012. The addition of Guilford County will double the number of students who qualify for the program, offering full-tuition scholarships and support services to bring the total close to 140,000.
The organization also announced a new partnership with Guilford College, which, as a result, will offer free tuition to eligible students.