The Guilford County Say Yes to Education program is making big changes to sustain its college scholarship program. That includes new income-based eligibility and requirements for how long students are enrolled in the school system.
“Many GCS graduates and their families will have to identify new means to fund their college tuition,” says Chuck Cornelio, chair of the Say Yes Guilford Scholarship board. “But in the new policies, I think you will see that our intent was to soften the impact on as many students as possible, particularly those with more limited financial resources for college.”
Officials with the group say the new criteria will be in place for all eligible students attending a public college or university beginning in the 2017-2018 school year.
Specifics of the revised policies include:
- Eligible students with an annual family income of $40,000 or less will receive 100 percent of the last dollar scholarships to bridge tuition costs after financial aid, if they have been enrolled in Guilford County Schools since ninth grade.
- Eligible students with an annual family income of $40,001 - $75,000 will receive up to $4,500 in tuition assistance, after financial aid, if they have been enrolled in Guilford County Schools since sixth grade.
- Eligible students with an annual family income of $75,001 - $100,000 will receive up to $2,250 in tuition assistance, after financial aid, if they have been enrolled in Guilford County Schools since fourth grade.
- Students with an annual family income of more than $100,000 will not be eligible for Say Yes Scholarships.
- Eligible students who receive the maximum award through the Federal Pell Grant program will receive a $350 Opportunity Scholarship from the Say Yes Guilford Scholarship Fund.
Cornelio says awards to students enrolling in private colleges and universities in the national Say Yes compact remain unchanged for the coming school year. In addition, he says the program will continue to require students and families to fill out the FAFSA form and Say Yes certification form each and every year.
“The scholarship board will review its policies, model and funding each year. If adjustments are needed, they will be announced to the classes," he says.
Officials say the model that was used to estimate the amount of money that was needed to fulfill the original scholarship promises was way off. For example, more students attended four-year institutions instead of two-year colleges, and more graduating seniors enrolled than the previous year.
Donnie Turlington, communications director for the organization, says there are two key factors the board will have to address to sustain the program. First, the scholarship board needs to make sure that the revenue they're generating from the pledges and commitments that have come in can match the scholarship need. Secondly, they recognize that they've got to do additional fundraising.
“Our community has said yes to the tune of $42-million in pledges and commitments, which is phenomenal,” says Turlington. “We need the community to continue to say yes to this program and continue to pledge with their money and commitments so we can make sure this thing will live for a long time.”
Despite the challenges, Say Yes Guilford says the first year of the program was a big success. More than 2,400 graduates from Guilford County Schools received scholarships.
Guilford County students are the first in the South to benefit from the Say Yes to Education campaign.
The organization also provides what are called wraparound services, like free tutoring or mobile health clinics. District and organization officials recently selected twelve “launch” schools to begin this next phase of the program. Turlington says those programs will continue to move forward.
Say Yes Guilford says it will hold a series of information meetings for families throughout April to explain the scholarship changes and answer any questions. The first one will take place on April 2 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at the Greensboro Public Library on N. Church Street.
“We understand Say Yes needed to change in order to continue support for those students who need it the most, but we are also deeply disappointed for our families who were expecting and counting on these funds to go to college," says Nora Carr, chief of staff for Guilford County Schools. "GCS will, as we always have, provide guidance for all of our students seeking financial aid in order to achieve their dreams of a college education.”
*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news