Tuesday, November 9, 2010

11-9-10: New Haven Promise

The City of New Haven, along with Yale University, is planning on offering local New Haven students free tuition to state universities. Most of the $4.5 million in annual funding for the New Haven Promise program is to come from Yale.

The whole point of the program is to help curb the horrendous drop-out rate in New Haven public schools. Each student will be eligible to receive up to 100% tuition for a state university if they maintain a 3.0 GPA and 90% attendance rate. Once they get in to college, they must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA to continue receiving the funding. The program also implements a sliding scale, allowing students who have attended New Haven public schools since kindergarten to receive the full 100% tuition, and students attending since the 9th grade to receive 65% tuition. Students must have attended New Haven schools since at least the ninth grade to be eligible.

Two things I like about this program are: 1) It has a lot of private funding and 2) It has a lot of caveats to mitigate risk of failure. It’s good for students who work hard and want to succeed

I’m not surprised to see Yale buy into this. As a New Haven resident, I see firsthand the issues Yale has with its community. It’s not uncommon to hear about incidents involving students and the community. This past weekend, a campus party ended with a bit of violence as uninvited “New Haven residents” got in a fight with members of the Yale heavyweight crew team while being escorted out of a private campus party. Earlier in the school year, several students were involved in a police raid on a private party in the night club district. The latter wasn’t a real issue of Yale vs. its neighbors – it was mostly Yale students vs. the New Haven Police. The former, however, is more common and more tricky to deal with.

Yale is practically a fortress to outsiders. I have friends who are students, and they’ve told me about the warnings they’ve received, and continue to receive, from the school regarding student safety. It’s a constant struggle. The surrounding neighborhoods are known for illicit activities. Yale has taken measures in the past to create a buffer for students, such as providing financial incentives for faculty to buy or rent property near campus to raise the local profile a bit. The decision to help fund New Haven Promise seems to follow along those lines – by encouraging local students to focus more on academics, it will help the city as a whole raise its profile and hopefully stem some of the problems that have plagued the schools for years.

Such a program will take several years to produce results. I hope the private funding does pick up. I hope students do take advantage of the program. Hopefully at the very least some get teaching degrees and give back to their community through education.

Well done, Yale.

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