GREENSBORO, NC -- The program that promises free college tuition money to Guilford County Students is considering revisions that would affect who qualifies for scholarship money.
"Say Yes to Education Guilford" money covers tuition to a North Carolina public school after state and federal financial aid are applied.
Last year, more than 2,000 GCS seniors received scholarships through the program. GCS says that number of students far exceeded the programs expectations.
"Say Yes Guilford" says it spent six times the expected total on scholarships for the class of 2016.
A spokesperson says it just underestimated the average amount per student.
Before there was "Say Yes Guilford," there was "Say Yes Syracuse," the pilot program in New York.
Since 2008, it's sent over 2,000 kids to college.
Then there was "Say Yes Buffalo," in five years, it sent more than 5,000 kids to college.
In its first year, "Say Yes Guilford" sent 2,000 kids to college!
The Syracuse and Buffalo school districts are much smaller than Guilford County -- but "Say Yes Guilford" was built off those models.
"Say Yes Guilford" Board Chair Chuck Cornelio says those models didn't account for the total cost of the scholarships.
"Say Yes Guilford" doled out $6 million dollars in scholarship money in 2016.
Cornelio says the models only accounted for $800,000.
"The models told us what we thought an average tuition per child would be but in actuality we paid out a lot more money per student."
Now the scamble is on as 'Say Yes' plans to change scholarships eligibility for the class of 2017.
Meanwhile, parents like Joan von Werder are stressing out.
"If we can't get this, it's a big deal for our family. A really big deal."
Her daughter, Hayley von Werder is a senior at Western Guilford High School.
She was approved for "Say Yes" Money.
Hayley has plans to head to East Carolina University in the fall.
"It came through that she was eligible for 75%," said von Werder. "So we've been relying on that and just going along thinking that's what's going to happen."
But the truth is, she doesn't know what's going to happen now.
It's uncertain if "Say Yes Guilford" will be able to pay for Hayley's scholarship or if they'll be able to continue paying for the 2,000 kids who already got one.
"We didn't expect this to happen and we are sorry that we've now led to a place where we need to make adjustments that will affect the class of 2016 high school kids that have already received money as well as kids going forward," said Cornelio.
School counselors, like Tonya Withers at Northern Guilford High School, say parents and students who want to go to college should keep applying for financial aid.
"We tell them to continue to fill out applications up until there are no more scholarships left available," said Withers.
As for von Werder, she says the scholarship from Say Yes Guilford -- is her daughter's only chance at college.
"We've been relying on that I'm looking forward to her being able to go to college with the scholarship," said von Werder. "If they make some changes to it and she isn't able to get that scholarship, I don't know what we're gonna do."
In a letter sent to stakeholders and students in the 2016 and 2017 classes, 'Say Yes Guilford' says it's apparent that changes will be needed to make sure the program can continue to help future classes.
The change being considered would revise the income qualifications for the scholarships. The scholarship board says it'll announce any changes to the program by the end of the month.
On Friday, Guilford County Schools said in a statement:
"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."
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