Cleveland Named 'Say Yes to Education' City, Scholarship Fund To Cover Full College Tuition for Eligible CMSD High Schoolers

click to enlarge Lincoln West School of Science and Health - Photo Courtesy CMSD
Photo Courtesy CMSD
Lincoln West School of Science and Health

Cleveland was today officially named a Say Yes to Education city, which, thanks to a $90 million endowment fund, means that eligible four-year graduates of a CMSD high school will have access to "last dollar" scholarships to 117 private colleges and universities and all 37 public Ohio colleges and universities that will cover all tuition and fees (the scholarships do not cover room and board) financial state and federal aid or grants up to the full cost of attendance.

The total fundraising goal for the endowment is $125 million.

The program aims to boost high school and college graduation for inner-city youths and includes "wrap-around" services that will address emotional and social well-being as well.

"I am very pleased to share with you that at a Say Yes to Education Community Update event held earlier this morning, Cleveland was named as a Say Yes to Education city," CMSD CEO Eric Gordon said in a release this morning. "That means that, beginning this school year, students who live in the CMSD footprint and attend CMSD high schools for their full four years of school will be eligible for a last dollar scholarship that will pay the balance of their tuition and fees (after Federal and State aid). And, thanks to a community effort that has already raised nearly $90 million for this scholarship fund, it means we will be able to offer those scholarships every year for the next 25 years! That’s two full generations of CMSD scholars! It also means that, beginning next school year, CMSD will begin implementing the Say Yes wrap-around services in 15 percent of our schools with a goal of implementing those services in every CMSD school by school year 2022-23!"

Founded in 1987, the nonprofit first worked with small groups in Philadelphia, New York City, Cambridge and Hartford. Expansion in 2008 to community-wide chapters encompassing entire districts included Syracuse, Buffalo and Guilford County, North Carolina.

Cleveland is the fourth community-wide location. The city of Cleveland, CMSD, Cuyahoga County, the Cleveland Foundation, the United Way of Greater Cleveland and College Now Greater Cleveland have worked diligently to meet the requirements set forth by Say Yes to Education and to raise the scholarship endowment.

Questions remain about some aspects of the plan, which will include lead-testing students, as well as how the wrap-around services will be provided (i.e. shifted by Cuyahoga County from where staff and money is deployed currently, for instance). And as the Brookings Institute found last year, underlying inequalities in housing, segregation and poverty may mean Say Yes doesn't achieve all that it promises.

"Unless accompanied by deeper reform of the education system as a whole, and of the inequality underlying it, even the most ambitious, innovative and sustained efforts will have, at best, modest results," it read.

All students who reside continuously in Cleveland for those four years of high school and graduate are eligible. A further process on the eligibility of charter school attendees and approved partnerships between CMSD and those schools will be announced sometime in 2019, according to the Say Yes to Education Cleveland website. (Cleveland has far more charter schools than the other three participating cities.)

Family incomes of $75,000 or less will mean a scholarship that covers the full cost of tuition, minus state and federal aid and grants. Family incomes above $75,000 will mean $5,000 a year to help cover tuition.

The median household income in the city of Cleveland, if you were wondering, is somewhere around $26,000 a year.

And while high school graduation rates have climbed 20% for CMSD students, only 20% of Cleveland residents have a two or four-year college degree.

Find more about Say Yes to Education and the local effort here.
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Vince Grzegorek

Vince Grzegorek has been with Scene since 2007 and editor-in-chief since 2012. He previously worked at Discount Drug Mart and Texas Roadhouse.
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