Cleveland takes next steps to be considered for Say Yes to Education

Cleveland and the Say Yes to Education non-profit have begun working to offer free college tuition to all graduates of the city school district by 2019. Say Yes to Education, a national nonprofit organization that partners with communities around the goals of college readiness and affordability, announced today that Cleveland has satisfied some of the earliest milestones on the extensive path to becoming a Say Yes chapter.

The bold promise of Say Yes is to bring together an entire community to ensure each of its children has the opportunity –and the support – to go to college. Using last-in-dollar scholarships as a catalyst, Say Yes partners with communities to create systems intended to help every child progress along the pathway to post-secondary success. If the school district and several local agencies clear key benchmarks in the next year to 18 months – including raising large amounts of money – Cleveland will become the fourth city to partner with Say Yes to provide scholarships that allow graduates to attend public colleges, trade schools and a few private schools without tuition bills or loans.

girl_chalkboard“If selected as a Say Yes city, we can create an opportunity for Cleveland students, regardless of economic circumstance, to go to college. Say Yes would help support their growth and aid in high-quality educational opportunities for those who traditionally would not have access. This is an excellent example of community partnerships contributing to equitable prosperity for all Clevelanders,”City of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said in a statement.

For more than two years, an exploratory group in Cleveland has been working to secure an affiliation with Say Yes for Cleveland’s youth. Six partners – City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), Cleveland Foundation, College Now and United Way – are leading the effort. These partners are seeking to make the case that Cleveland would be a good fit for the Say Yes approach, leveraging the ongoing success of the Cleveland Plan, the region’s strong history of collaboration as demonstrated by innovative and committed public sector leaders, and an organized and robust philanthropic and nonprofit sector committed to enhancing the lives of all Greater Clevelanders.

Already, the public-private partnership that submitted the application has participated in extensive vetting, including on-site visits in Cleveland, by Say Yes’ senior management and advisory board.

“Under the Cleveland Plan, CMSD is graduating more students, and students who are better prepared for college; however, the number of Cleveland students enrolling in postsecondary education is declining. If we succeed in being selected, Say Yes can help Cleveland reverse that trend through scholarship access and support services students need from kindergarten through 12th grade. The potential of Say Yes provides hope and opportunity for the people of Cleveland to play a significant role in the revitalization of the city and the region,” Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon said in a statement.

The Cleveland group, along with others, will now spend the next 12 to 18 months working with Say Yes to determine the possibility of Cleveland becoming a community-wide affiliate. This work includes, but is not limited to, determining scholarship parameters and criteria, raising a significant portion of the funding required to support the scholarship endowment, and identifying necessary in-school and out-of-school supports and services and related public and philanthropic funding sources to meet the development needs of every child.

This next phase will require input and work from all aspects of the community – parents, children, teachers, school administrators, social-service organizations, businesses, government officials, residents, and more. Cleveland’s potential selection as a Say Yes partner community would enhance the work already being done to improve all the factors that influence Cleveland children’s academic success and to ensure they are ready for college or career.

Read more about how Say Yes work on Cleveland.com.