Paul Smith’s College says yes to Say Yes free-tuition program

PAUL SMITHS – Paul Smith’s College and 10 other institutions announced Wednesday that they’ll participate in a program that covers 100 percent of tuition costs for eligible graduates of certain urban high schools.

The new additions, which also include Cornell University and Hamilton College, bring the total number of institutions participating to 54.

Say Yes to Education Inc. is a 26-year-old, New York City-based nonprofit organization that works with the Syracuse and Buffalo public schools, and with groups of students in New York City and Philadelphia, to cover tuition costs for students accepted to participating two- or four- year colleges and universities. The organization and its local partners also provide academic tutoring, legal assistance, mental health counseling and medical care to students and their families.

Say Yes scholarships are funded by individuals, families, foundations and businesses in Syracuse and Buffalo.

Colleges that commit to the Higher Education Compact typically promise full tuition to accepted students whose annual family income is at or below $75,000.

More than half of Paul Smith’s students are first-generation collegians, and 95 percent get some sort of financial aid to cover the $21,930 tuition, plus other fees, according to college President John Mills.

“We’ve built a wide range of programs designed to help students from these backgrounds get over the hurdles they may face as they pursue higher education, and we’re looking forward to working with students who are part of Say Yes to Education as they follow their own dreams,” Ken Aaron, director of communications at Paul Smith’s, wrote in an email to the Enterprise.

According to Say Yes’ website, more than half of the students participating in the program achieve post-secondary degrees.

“We have had great success through the years,” Richard Flax, national communications director for Say Yes to Education, told the Enterprise in a phone interview. “Say Yes has sent over 3,000 kids to college since its inception, and our rate of kids staying in school is incredible.”

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is a longtime supporter of the program and praised Say Yes in a press release.

“Higher education remains one of the clearest paths to the middle class in this country – and it must be within reach for anyone willing to work their hardest, and earn their degree,” Gillibrand said. “Say Yes makes this possible. I saw it in action during one of my very first visits to Syracuse as senator. I saw right away the effectiveness of local stakeholders at every level working together to support students at every step of the way.”

President Barack Obama also praised Say Yes during stops in Syracuse and Buffalo in August.

Mills said in a press release that Say Yes is in line with Paul Smith’s College’s mission.

“Since we opened our doors more than 60 years ago, Paul Smith’s has been committed to providing access to higher education for students from all walks of life,” Mills said. “A college education is a transformational experience, and we’re proud to be able to work with Say Yes to Education to make that opportunity a reality for even more students.”

Contact Shaun Kittle at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or