Say Yes Guilford reviewing scholarship criteria after paying ‘significantly more’ than expected

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Say Yes to Education Guilford is reviewing its criteria for college scholarships, according to letters obtained by FOX8 from the organization to Guilford County Schools employees and community stakeholders.

"After paying out significantly more dollars than anticipated this school year, Say Yes to Education Guilford (Say Yes Guilford) is reviewing its criteria for college scholarships," the letter to GCS staff said.

"While local and national leaders worked in good faith to create a scholarship program in the fall of 2015 that would be available to the Class of 2016, it is clear that the current model is not sustainable," the letter continued.

In the letter to community stakeholders, Say Yes Guilford said, "In carefully reviewing its scholarship model and policies, the Say Yes Guilford Scholarship Board is considering revisions to the income qualifications for the scholarships."

In Say Yes Guilford's first year in Guilford County, more than 2,000 recent GCS graduates attended colleges and other postsecondary programs with scholarships provided by, or arranged through, the organization, the letter to GCS employees said. That number "far exceeded" the organization's financial projections.

Further details about the organization's revision plans have not been released.

“I wasn’t surprised because of the outcomes of what we’ve heard already about Say Yes, however, we are disappointed,” said Lissa Harris, with the group Parents Supporting Parents. “From day one we've been trying to have access to the scholarship committee and gain more information on how they were making their eligibility criteria."

Say Yes Guilford released the following statement to FOX8::

"Say Yes Guilford is considering making changes to the requirements for scholarships to North Carolina public colleges and universities. We understand that changes to our scholarship model will have a significant impact on the decisions that families and students are making about their college choices. We also understand that the process of planning for a student’s academic pursuits after high school, and how best to pay for it, is a complex and demanding undertaking. Our pledge to the families of GCS graduates is that we will do everything we can to position Say Yes Guilford to support the dreams and aspirations of as many students as we possibly can.

"Understanding the critical timing and planning that goes into making college choices, the Say Yes Guilford Scholarship Board is committed to finalizing and announcing any modifications to its scholarship program by the end of this month. Students and families with questions and concerns are encouraged to visit the Say Yes Guilford website -- www.sayyesguilford.org -- for updates, as well as to contact Say Yes Guilford by phone at 336-814-2233 or via email at guilfordscholarship@sayyestoeducation.org."

Guilford County Schools Chief of Staff Nora Carr told FOX8:

"While we understand that significant changes will have to be made to address the budget shortfall, we remain grateful that so many have worked so hard on this effort and we remain hopeful that our community will find a way to make the dream of a college education a reality for as many GCS students and their families as possible."