Triad Business Journal

Guilford County selected as ‘Say Yes’ community

Guilford County selected next ‘Say Yes’ community

Posted: September 17, 2015

By: Katie Arcieri

Guilford County has been selected as a Say Yes to Education community in a move that will provide county public school graduates with the opportunity for college scholarships by spring 2016.

The county is the first Say Yes community to be selected outside the Northeast. Other Say Yes communities are in Buffalo and Syracuse, N.Y.

Say Yes is a national nonprofit founded in the late 1980s by New York money manager George Weiss that helps communities build local endowments to fund “last dollar” tuition scholarships for public school graduates to afford and complete postsecondary education.

Say Yes’ selection of Guilford County brings the total number of students eligible for Say Yes scholarships and support services to nearly 140,000 across North Carolina and New York.

“This is a historic day for the children of our community and for our public schools,” said Maurice O. “Mo” Green, superintendent of Guilford County Schools. “Entire generations of young people and their families will find their lives forever changed because our community and the Say Yes National Foundation believe in them and are willing to help them make their dreams of a college education possible.”

Prior to selection, Say Yes had chosen Guilford County as a finalist for several reasons, including leadership within the school system and its high percentage of public school students from low-income backgrounds.

Under the program, county students accepted to and enrolled in a one-, two-, or four-year degree public university or certificate program would be provided with scholarship funding from the local endowment to cover tuition that isn’t covered by other grants and scholarships.

There are also about 100 private colleges and universities across the country that will cover tuition that isn’t covered by other grants and scholarships to county students who are accepted into those private schools and whose families earn less than $75,000. Accepted students whose families earn more than the $75,000 threshold would be eligible for up to $5,000 a year from the local endowment to help pay for private college tuition.

“This is touching a huge number of children and families in this community with a direct financial benefit, a huge incentive and a tremendous opportunity for us to really up the degree-holders in our community, ” said Winston McGregor, executive director of Guilford Education Alliance, which has helped lead efforts to bring Say Yes to the county.

Say Yes has already committed about $1 million toward feasibility studies. The group will commit an additional $15 million as part of its official selection of Guilford County to coordinate support services that help students graduate from high school and head to college. In other communities, those support services have included tutoring, after-school programs and medical care.

McGregor said the $15 million from Say Yes also “helps us build the framework, helps us create some startup staff, pay for operations to expand things that we can tell early on are working and that we need to expand and test further.”

The county has been selected at a time when local officials have raised $32.5 million toward the local scholarship endowment, surpassing the required threshold of $28 million to be selected as a Say Yes community. McGregor said the community plans to raise an additional $37.5 million toward the goal of bringing total scholarship endowment dollars to $70 million within the next 15 months.

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