A Tale of Two Cities… Maybe Three


Say Yes to Education has been in the news locally in its two well-established New York cities as well as a potential third location in Greensboro, N.C.

First the good news. In Buffalo, school officials have reported that the college-going rate among students from Buffalo City Schools is on the rise since the launch of the Say Yes Buffalo initiative in 2012. In just that short time the percentage of graduates who enroll in college has jumped from 57 percent to 64 percent.

“It shows that this investment is working and year over year,” SYB Director Dave Rust told WKBW reporter Desiree Wiley. “How it’s about an additional 250 graduates that are choosing to go on to college or post-secondary programs.”

But Dave Tobin of the Syracuse Post-Standard recently reported that the promise of free tuition at New York’s public colleges may be coming to an end in Syracuse. While partnerships in Buffalo have proven successful in its early fundraising efforts, Say Yes Syracuse has fallen far short of its goals.

The national office of Say Yes to Education has covered costs for more than 2,500 students in Syracuse, but does not plan to continue that funding. Organization president Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey said that the city received unique benefit because it was the first to adopt the comprehensive city-wide approach and, in that role, it served as an incubator for learning.

But now Syracuse officials and business leaders will need to step up to keep the scholarships in place. Tobin’s story also mentioned an additional point of contention — that Syracuse Schools have been either unable or unwilling to implement a monitoring system which is in place in Buffalo and deemed vital by Say Yes. The absence of the system leaves the funders unable to assess the program’s success, leaving it with “one arm tied behind our back,” according to Schmitt-Carey.

Despite the concerns in Syracuse, the folks in Greensboro remain uber-excited about the potential of Say Yes launching in Guilford County. On Tuesday night soon-to-be presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson spoke at a sold-out fundraiser with proceeds benefitting the Say Yes initiative, which has generated about $10 million in short order. Officials there will learn this summer if Say Yes will officially launch its first non-Northeast program in the region.

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