New Haven Promise To Revisit In-State Rule

Melissa Bailey PhotoNew Haven Promise is sending more city kids to college in Connecticut—which has led some educators to question whether the scholarship program is inadvertently limiting their students’ chances for success.

The question—which has been raised over the past year—arose again in a recent meeting of the boards that govern New Haven charter schools in the Achievement First network.

Now Promise’s board will consider the question at its next meeting, according to New Haven Mayor Toni Harp. Harp, who sits on the board, said she sees merits on both sides of the issue.

At the recent Achievement First board meeting, a member asked Amistad High School Principal Chris Bostock about a trend among graduating seniors: At this year’s signing day, where students announce their college choices, more kids seemed to be choosing large, in-state universities instead of out-of-state private liberal arts schools. Only six of 41 graduating students chose to go out-of-state. Twenty-nine students chose to attend public Connecticut colleges and universities.

The board member asked if that change was due to New Haven Promise, the city’s college scholarship program. The program offers up to full tuition for students who live in New Haven, attend New Haven charter or traditional public schools, get good grades—and stay in Connecticut for college. This year’s graduating high-school seniors are the first to be eligible for 100 percent of the scholarship, which has been phased in since its creation in 2011.

Melissa Bailey File PhotoBostock said New Haven Promise is one factor among financial pressures that led kids to attend in-state universities—universities where they are less likely to succeed.

“Over the long run, we see more success with small, private liberal arts colleges,” not large public institutions, Bostock said.

Low-income students are nearly twice as likely to succeed at private colleges and universities: 44 percent of low-income kids graduate from private institutions in four years, versus 24 percent at public institutions, according to an analysis by the Council of Independent Colleges. That gap improves over a longer period of time: 68 percent of low-income students graduate from private institutions in six years, compared to 61 percent at public institutions.

Melissa Bailey File PhotoAF employs an alumni team to track and help its high school graduates through college. Smaller institutions such as Franklin & Marshall in Pennsylvania have been “much more supportive” of first-generation college-going, low-income AF students than large public institutions have been, Bostock said.

While many students eye out-of-state liberal arts schools, New Haven Promise “can pose a competing pressure” when families are trying to decide where to send their kids, he later said.

Dacia Toll, CEO of Achievement First, phrased that concern more strongly later in the meeting, which took place last week.

“I love New Haven Promise,” Toll said. “But there’s no doubt” that Promise is influencing students to choose in-state schools.

“I personally would love to have [Promise] change the incentive structure,” she said.

Toll (at center in photo) suggested New Haven Promise, which is funded by Yale University and the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, open up scholarships to kids who leave Connecticut—as well as offer more money to those who choose private colleges.

As of now, Promise offers up to $2,500 per year for students who attend not-for-profit private universities in Connecticut. Meanwhile, it offers up to full tuition at in-state public colleges and universities.

Melissa Bailey PhotoKhadijah Muhammad (at right in photo) said her son, Shehu, who graduated from Amistad High School in 2013, had his heart set on studying science and engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. Out of the 4,000 undergrads, 81 percent earn degrees in six years—a rate that’s much higher than most large public Connecticut universities.

“He really wanted to go to WPI because of the smaller environment,” she said. But she would have had to come up with $30,000 per year, which she couldn’t afford. Shehu ended up attending the 10,000-student Central Connecticut State University, where just over half of students earn degrees in six years. Promise dollars come in only after federal financial aid. Promise is paying close to $1,000 per year to cover the amount of tuition not covered by federal aid; it does not cover room and board or fees.

Muhammad said Promise should extend scholarships to kids like Shehu who want to study outside Connecticut.

“They work for it,” she said—Shehu had a 3.67 GPA in high school. “Why should they be penalized because they choose an out-of-state school?”

Keeping Young People Here


The question of whether Promise should expand to serve kids who leave Connecticut has come up over the past year.

Former Mayor John DeStefano, who created New Haven Promise and pitched it to funders, cited several reasons behind the in-state rule. The goal of Promise was to “develop New Haven human capital—and at the same time, keep that capital in state and in New Haven in particular,” he wrote in an email to the Independent.

“Our feeling was that making out-of-state institutions a recipient of these dollars would diminish the likelihood of retaining graduates in New Haven as they would be less likely to return home,” he recalled. Keeping scholarships in-state was an intentional design of the program, not an aspect Yale or the public institutions ever weighed in on, he said. He also said Promise sought to support local state institutions and to stem the total cost of the program.

In its first three years, Promise has handed out nearly $1 million in scholarships. The number of participating students has gone up each year. Yale has pledged to fund the program at a cost of up to $4 million per year.

Melissa Bailey File PhotoIn part prompted by Toll, New Haven Promise Executive Director Patricia Melton (pictured) raised to her board last year the question of whether Promise should expand to serve kids who head out of state. The board, which includes the mayor and Yale’s president, discussed the matter last year and also this year, after a change of leadership at Yale and the city.

The board plans to discuss the matter at its next meeting, according to Mayor Toni Harp.

Harp didn’t take a stance on the matter. On the one hand, she said, “What you want to be able to do is to make all kids [can] go to the college that they’d like to attend and not be forced to go to one that they would not like to attend.”

On the other hand, she said students might be more likely to leave the state if they head away for college. She cited her own three kids as an example: “All three went to college out of state, and only one came back.” Meanwhile, over 90 percent of kids who attend Connecticut state universities remain in-state, she said.

She was asked about the argument that Promise is inadvertently setting kids up for failure by steering them toward large public universities. She disagreed: Connecticut public universities “specialize in providing an appropriate and supportive setting for first-generation college-goers,” she said. The federal education department does not collect college graduation rates by income level, according to spokeswoman Aurora D’Amico; the state did not provide those rates as of press time.

After the first year of Promise in 2011, DeStefano called it “disappointing” that only 62 percent of Promise’s first class of participants stayed in the program through to a second year.

Melton said Promise does not have any up-to-date number quantifying student retention. She said retention is hard to boil down to one percentage for various reasons: Some kids defer and transfer into Promise later; some take a semester off then go back to school; others lose Promise funding due to sinking grades, but remain enrolled in college.

Instead, she offered this chart (pictured) outlining how many students have enrolled in “year 1” (right after high-school graduation), “year 2” (two years after high-school graduation) and “year 3.” The chart shows the number of students using Promise has gone up. It doesn’t offer a retention rate, however—because it doesn’t identify whether the students enrolled in year 2 are the same as were enrolled in year 1.

Yale University President Peter Salovey could not be reached for comment because he was traveling, according to an aide. “Yale was pleased to support the New Haven Promise as envisioned by the City to encourage New Haven students to go to college and make their lives and careers in the city and region,” said Yale spokesman Tom Conroy. He declined to say whether Yale would support a change.

Thomas MacMillan PhotoWill Ginsberg (pictured), CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, which oversees Promise, said he’s open to changing the out-of-state policy.

Ginsberg, who sits on the Promise board, said it needs to consider “how does New Haven Promise and the broader community create the environment that will bring our most talented kids back to New Haven to stay and build their lives here and contribute to our city going forward?”

“I’m not convinced either way that the current policy serves that goal,” he said. He said it’s not “intuitively obvious” that students are more likely to return to New Haven if they attend UConn instead of UMass, or Trinity College instead of Columbia or Princeton universities.

He said Promise is making a strong effort to keep its scholars connected to the city through summer job opportunities and an alumni network.

Mom Cheryl Cox said she hopes Promise considers expanding to out-of-state schools. Her daughter, Leslie Nicholson, graduated from Amistad High this year. Leslie got into several out-of-state liberal arts colleges and ended up choosing UConn instead.

UConn has a much higher six-year graduation rate (83 percent) compared to other state universities. (Southern Connecticut State University’s is 49 percent.) UConn has lots of supports for disadvantaged students, but Cox said she’s still worried about her daughter thriving in such a large school.

Contributed PhotoLeslie (pictured) had her heart set on St. John’s University, a 21,000-student private university in New York, Cox said. The annual tuition there is $55,000. At the time Leslie was applying, the family had no family contribution because her mom was out of work. With the financial aid package St. John’s offered, Leslie would have had to take out loans of $25,000 per year—an untenable prospect.

Leslie ended up choosing UConn. Promise offered her $4,128 per year toward her tuition, which covers tuition not paid for by federal financial aid.

Cox said she’s grateful to Promise for opening the door to UConn for her daughter. It would be better, though, if Promise aided her dream of going to a smaller school, where she feels her daughter would receive more support, she said.

“New Haven Promise is a great thing,” she said. “I just wish they would allow the kids to still take the money out of state.” By directing Promise dollars to Connecticut schools, “You kind of limit the kids as to where they can go.”

New Haven Superintendent Garth Harries said if “resources were no object,” he would “absolutely” support expanding Promise to serve students who leave the state for college.

But he said for most New Haven public school students, “the question is not in-state versus out-of-state. The question is college or not college.”

“I think the most important thing is to recognize the contribution” Promise is making by “making college possible in the first place,” he said.

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posted by: Elm City Resident on August 1, 2014  4:22pm

When looking at “Promise” programs nationwide, although some of the details vary, there is a set list of things that does not—residency requirement to receive benefit, grade requirement to receive benefit, scale of benefit based on length of district attendance, grade requirement to keep benefit while in universities/colleges, AND… benefit only goes to in-state universities/colleges. 

If the program components are to be changed then it shouldn’t be called, “New Haven Promise” or be referred to as a “Promise” program.

posted by: Elm City Resident on August 1, 2014  4:44pm

If the idea is that the program should increase dollars to private institutions then it should be expanded to private institutions that are in Connecticut (e.g. Wesleyan, Connecticut College, Mitchell, Quinnipiac).  The state is hemorrhaging talent and will continue to lose talent over the next ten years or so, which is why we need to do more to keep our kids in-state.

posted by: NewHaven06511 on August 1, 2014  4:49pm

Nothing prevents Achievement First from tapping its own extensive network of donors to support New Haven students who might benefit from scholarships for out-of-state schools.

posted by: ElmCityVoice on August 1, 2014  5:18pm

If New Haven Promise is looking to make change, the first order of business would be to make the scholarships open to ALL students attending New Haven Public Schools. Since most of our high schools are inter district, with students attending from different area towns, the obvious unfairness is that they do not qualify for Promise. That includes many students who sat next to New Haven students for 4 years and find themselves with the same grades but not eligible for Promise. Ms. Toll is just a little disingenuous in implying that all the Amistad HS students would do better at out of state colleges and universities. I agree with the superintendent. First, let’s find the funds to send all our graduates to college. Then, we’ll worry about sending charter graduates to Ivy League schools.

posted by: Theodora on August 1, 2014  5:25pm

I find the complaints from the Amistad community to be fascinating. If your child has their heart set on a particular out-of-state school, pay for it. No one is “punishing” you, you are simply opting not to agree to the terms.

I also think that the people at Amistad suggesting that they know better the situation for their families to be very paternalistic. It is simply shoddy to point to statistics of low-income results and suggest that an influx of Promise dollars wouldn’t potentially impact that.

Unimpressed with the entitlement of the school and its whiny parents and privileged staff.

posted by: Wooster Squared on August 1, 2014  5:44pm

Wow, I guess it’s true that no good deed goes unpunished. New Haven Promise is a great program that gives kids money for college. Now people are complaining because it “only” gives them access to Connecticut schools. Connecticut has a ton of universities for a state its size and a very strong state university system as well. I can’t believe people have already found something to complain about. Perhaps the money used for New Haven promise should be spent instead on kids who will appreciate it rather than complain that they can’t attend high-priced private colleges out of state.

posted by: SLP on August 1, 2014  6:11pm

It’s not easy to ascertain from their website, but New Haven Promise offers a maximum of $2,500 in scholarships to students who attend CT private colleges, liberal arts or otherwise. It offers a larger sum (up to the cost of tuition, though not the cost of room and board or other costs) for students attending CT public colleges.

However, although there is lots of good info on their website (recently revamped), it is surprisingly difficult to find specifics regarding exactly how the scholarship works in terms of dollar figures. They do continue to tout that they offer “full tuition” at CT public colleges, a statement most families find extremely misleading and/or confusing once it’s time to do business with NHPromise and figure out how it intersects with financial aid offers or other scholarships. Many people do not understand that scholarships will vary from student to student, given financial aid packages and college attended. It should be more clear.

I agree with the effort to support and send good students to in-state public colleges. New Haven Promise is definitely helping to drive New Haven kids to the CT public college system.  However, I also think students should have access to out of state programs, and if they meet all the other Promise standards, perhaps there can be another tier of scholarship funding (maybe lower than the existing CT public or CT private scholarships) for those who attend out of state colleges, either public or private.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 1, 2014  6:14pm

People wake up.The New Haven Promise is a scam.Read this.As of now, Promise offers up to $2,500 per year for students who attend not-for-profit private universities in Connecticut. Meanwhile, it offers up to full tuition at in-state public colleges and universities.Case and point.Just to go to uconn School of Medicine look at the cost.

Tuition and Fees
In State   New England   Out of State
Tuition   $27,074   $46,629   $55,928
Fees   7,331   7,331   7,331
Total   $34,405

Student Budgets

Tuition and Fees (In State)    $34,405   $34,405   $34,405   $34,405
Living Expenses   20,625   20,775   25,950   21,600
Student Health Plan*    2,628   2,628   2,628   2,628
Laptop   1,525            
Books   950   700   570    
Instrument Purchase   525            
USMLE Step 1       580        
USMLE Step 2           1,810    
USMLE Step 3               800
Transcript, Letter Fee               150
Student Activity Fee   125   125   125   125
Total (In State)    $60,783   $59,213   $65,488   $60,083
Total (New England)    $80,338   $78,768   $85,043   $79,638
Total (Out of State)    $89,637   $88,067   $94,342   $88,937

You think the New Haven Promise will pay this?

The New Haven Promise is nothing but a tax write off for the crooked one percenters.

You want to help these students.Then College should be free for all.look at the international experience.France provides free and pretty much unlimited access to universities for all with a high school diploma.

posted by: robn on August 2, 2014  7:06am

Promises Board is considering fixing a part of the machine that isn’t broken. As Mayor DeStefano said, the residency requirement is why we’re doing this; its a mutually beneficial bargain that allows someone to improve but asks that the improved person stay here.
Not sure if nationwide graduation stats represent CT but if it does, why not focus on the real problem which seems to be some sort of alienation or overwhelm that low income students experience at large universities?  I went to a big school and felt a bit lost for a while so I know where they’re coming from. Could this be helped with a mentor or buddy system?

posted by: Walt on August 2, 2014  10:31am

Unless the program has unlimited funds,  for each kid sent to out - of- State or private colleges, 2 or 3 or more kids will lose their   opportunity for an extended education completely

Looks to me that   those griping about limited college choice are quite greedy

I’d rather see more kids benefit and the extra-selfish folk quoted above   restricted

Even as it is,  well-qualified kids from New Haven families with a few bucks but not enough to be able to pay enormous college fees,  will continue to suffer

Let’s not make things worse by meeting these ungrateful and unhappy beneficiaries’  demands,

posted by: Walt on August 2, 2014  1:20pm

Three fifths

As usual,  your citations,  as they stand,  do not make a hell of a lot of sense , but this time, if revised, they may be helpful

Is your first chart, which is incomplete,  supposed to say that Ct Medical School for a CT resident will cost about 34 thousand $$  per year, plus living costs for a CT resident?  ,—-a New England resident, about $19,000 more ?  and others about $29,000 more per year?

If so , WOW.  I’m glad my kids are finished schooling.

Your other confusing chart,  may have shown about $250,000 as 4 year costs for Bachelor candidate   for Ct folk and much more for outsiders

Again, WOW!!

Few families,  at least ones that I know could swing   that kind of money and your projected amount of subsidy from this program,  as you say,  would have little effect

PS   Still, if someone gets   a tax benefit by donating to this program they do not have a net gain and deserve thanks,  not gripes

posted by: Don in New Haven on August 2, 2014  1:36pm

Promise is a special program for NH students to go to CT colleges and universities. You must either accept the rules or look somewhere else for funding. Next, will Promise be asked to pay to send kids to other countries?

“Khadijah Muhammad said her son, Shehu, who graduated from Amistad High School in 2013, had his heart set on studying science and engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.”

Did her son apply to WPI and was he accepted?

WPI is a private university and the Financial Aid Office gives comprehensive guidance on Federal Financial Aid, scholarships and student loans available to pay for school. The student and family must exert effort to succeed in acceptance and Admission.

WPI cost estimates clearly show that Promise is too tiny to help very much.

2014-2015 Cost of WPI Attendance for First-Year Undergraduate Students Living on Campus
Tuition       $43,612.00
Undergraduate Student Life Fee   $260.00
Health Fee       $350.00
New Student Orientation Fee   $200.00
Total of Tuition & Fees     $44,422.00
Board (Meal plan)    $5,616.00
Books and Supplies   $1,000.00
Personal Expenses   $1,000.00
Total Budgeted Costs   $59,504.00

posted by: Don in New Haven on August 2, 2014  1:55pm

Also, for Shah, I may point out that he could transfer to WPI if he meets WPI requirements. If your heart demands, never give up just DO IT!

Go to this web page for more admissions detail which also includes Transfer:

Here are the typical numbers to be met by high school first year applicants to WPI:

Admitted Student Profile

  Average GPA 3.85
  Average class rank in top 11 percent
  SAT range (middle 50%)
      CR/WR & MA: 1240–1470