In an effort to foster the University’s connection with the Rochester community and help students at local public schools, UR President Joel Seligman announced yesterday a program called the “Rochester Promise.” The program will guarantee $100,000 in UR tuition over four years to an estimated 40 Rochester City School District high school alumni who meet admissions standards.

Seligman outlined the program in Wallis Hall, accompanied by leaders of the Rochester community and the College, including Mayor Robert Duffy, RCSD Superintendent Bill Cala and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid John Burdick. Seligman attributed much of the program’s successful implementation to Burdick and his office.

“I’d like to extend all credit to John Burdick,” Seligman said.

The city leaders expressed thanks for being included in Rochester’s plans.

“I have always talked about how we have to work together,” Cala said. “It is only through everyone’s effort that we can do the right thing for kids in our city.”

Duffy echoed Cala’s sentiment.

“Education is everyone’s responsibility,” he said.

Seligman and the other leaders decried the lack of hope that plagues students in the RCSD, where the graduation rate of 39 percent is 28 percentage points lower than the statewide average. Duffy said that this program will help alleviate the problem.

“If a [high school] student knows that if he or she studies hard they can come into a prestigious University, that is going to raise hope,” Duffy said. However, Burdick pointed out that students still need to study and parents need to continue saving money for the remaining tuition.

“The door is open, but [students] have to walk up to it, step through it,” Burdick said.

The “Rochester Promise” program will be available for the 2008-09 school year, with an estimated cost of $1 million annually, assuming that 40 students receive the scholarship. However, Seligman pointed out that the funding could potentially be revised to include more students.

“If [a greater number of] qualified matriculants apply, we will potentially extend the support,” he said. There are currently 33 RCSD alumni enrolled in the undergraduate program at UR.

While the $25,000 a year scholarship will compose a large portion of a student’s tuition, it falls $10,000 short of UR’s annual tuition costs. However, Seligman pointed out that the scholarship can be augmented by additional scholarship applications and loan funds. Duffy maintained these additional funds would likely minimize tuition for many of the students.

“This is a tremendous jumpstart,” Duffy said. “With all the other packages available, we can present this as pretty much a free ride.”

Burdick later explained that some common funds for low-income students are the federal-sponsored Pell Grant and state-sponsored Tap Grant, both of which offer scholarships up to $5,000.

Seligman addressed the issue of funding.

“The project is being funded entirely by the College from the financial resources that the school consistently provides,” he said. The money comes from different sources, including gifts to the school, UR’s endowment and tuition money that has historically gone to financial aid. Seligman noted that part of the money is an allocation from an existing fund dedicated to helping the Rochester community.

The overarching theme of the press conference was the broadening relationship between UR and the Rochester community.

“UR has opened up the doors to its campus,” Duffy said, citing the Brooks Landing Project.

Seligman also spoke about building a stronger connection with the community.

“This is our way of celebrating our close relationship with the city we love,” Seligman said.

Wrobel is a member of the class of 2010.

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