CLEVELAND, Ohio — Leaders of Cleveland’s Say Yes to Education college scholarship program worry that disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic will keep students from succeeding in their first year college or keep new high school graduates from starting classes in the fall.
They are pressing high school seniors in the Cleveland school district to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Say Yes scholarship applications while schools are not in session.
And they have adult mentors talking to students that started college using the scholarships this school year to make sure they can complete classes and return to college in the fall. Because colleges shut down last month and moved classes online, Say Yes leaders don’t want students to give up and drop out.
Instructions for mentors changed when colleges closed, so that the mentors could help students find food, shelter and Internet access to do online college classes, if they do not have it.
“Our biggest concern is persistence. All of a sudden kids had to leave school in the middle of a semester. That’s a long time when you’re a freshman,” said Lee Friedman, CEO of CollegeNow Cleveland, the college advising group working with students.
The New York-based Say Yes to Education program officially launched in Cleveland last January when city, school and charitable foundation leaders raised enough money to start offering scholarships to last year’s high school graduates.
The program also provides academic and social service supports to students while they are in school, so that they can graduate and move on to college.
In previous cities that partnered with Say Yes, keeping kids in college after their freshman year has been a challenge, as has encouraging high school students to apply to colleges, particularly when their parents never attended college.
Friedman said FAFSA applications are about on pace with Cleveland’s applications last year and CollegeNow advisors are calling students to remind them. She said a student can fill out the form online and can have help from an advisor.
“The longer kids aren’t in school, we’ve got to work to get them to focus on it,” she said. “We’re just going to have to keep our foot to the pedal on this.”
Click here for details on filling out the FAFSA and applying for Say Yes scholarships.
Scholarships are available to Cleveland school district residents who graduate from a district high school and have attended district schools since last January. In the future, they will be available to students who graduate from a district or partnering charter high school and have attended one of those schools continuously since 9th grade.
Scholarships cover tuition costs left after using all available federal and state aid at state colleges and several partnering private colleges.