Progress Update on Free Tuition Plan in Buffalo

1:22 AM, Feb 12, 2013   |    comments
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Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- With the rising cost of college tuition, some graduating Buffalo Public Schools students could have something to look forward to this fall - free tuition. 

Say Yes Buffalo held a meeting at Highgate Heights Elementary school Monday night to inform students and parents about how to apply for a scholarship that would cover the cost of their tuition at nearly 100 colleges and universities.

Those in charge of the program say this scholarship opportunity is important to promoting academic involvement and community engagement.

"The parents and the community at large are thrilled," said Executive Director of Say Yes Buffalo David Rust. "First, it's the opportunity for every child graduating from a Buffalo public or charter school to have college tuition guaranteed provided they meet all the eligibility requirements. There's no cap on that, which is just tremendous. I met a family last week that had six children who will all be able to partake in this scholarship opportunity."

To be eligible, students must have been continuously enrolled in a public or charter school since at least ninth grade and must apply for financial aid when they go to college.

For those who max out their loans but still have additional expenses, Say Yes also offers an opportunity grant to cover the cost of books and supplies.

Along with scholarships, Rust said Say Yes offers a number of services to help promote a nurturing environment in local schools. Among them are after school programs, summer enrichment programs, social services and mental health services.

Rust said services are currently active in one quarter of district schools, and will be implemented in the rest of the schools over the next three years.

Say Yes Buffalo is only the second chapter to receive city-wide support for its programs. Syracuse was the first.

Since the program's implementation in 2008, Rust said the Syracuse City School District has seen 7 percent more students graduating and 22 percent more students going to college. This is something he said he hopes they can accomplish here in Buffalo.

"One thing we've seen in their rollout process is the need for support services in the elementary and middle schools and we're going to take that into consideration," he said. "We've learned a lot from Syracuse and we're trying to build on their success."

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