UConn's 'Hartford Promise' initiative an excellent start

The university announced plans to work alongside Hartford Promise, a scholarship program designed to increase college enrollment among Hartford public high school students. Considering there are only 265 UConn students (across branches) that bear Hartford public high schools as their alma maters, it is a long-needed demographical adjustment to UConn’s student body.

The program awards $20,000 evenly distributed across four years to students who meet four prerequisites: students must live in Hartford, attend a Hartford public high school, have a 3.0 cumulative GPA and 93 percent attendance. Ideally, meeting the latter two criteria will serve as an incentive for students to come to school and make the best of their education.

UConn is not the first school to do something like this, as Yale has its own New Haven Promise. As of Fall 2016, UConn will also be working with New Haven Promise to provide the same opportunity to high school students in the city.

Overall, programs like these are steps in the right direction. With college costing as much as it does, especially given the tuition hike taking place over the next few years, any aid helps people of working class families that typically may not be able to afford a college education. Despite the tuition increase, it is nice to see UConn give back to communities in visible, tangible ways.  

Another positive to the program is that UConn is not the sole benefactor. Executive Director Richard Sugarman noted that Traveler’s Insurance, Hartford Hospital, Newman’s Own Foundation and various other organizations have agreed to step up. The variegated, multi-organizational nature of the donations should quell naysayers who regard UConn’s participation as an expensive and non-worthwhile endeavor.

Sugarman also referred to Promise scholarships in Pittsburgh, Denver and Kalamazoo that determined via longitudinal research that a $1 investment returns approximately $4-6 per person in terms of direct economic benefit to the surrounding community and taxes garnered.

What will happen in Hartford and New Haven this coming fall brings a lot of potential for high school students seeking to have the same educational opportunities as members of cohorts from wealthier towns. Another fundamental key here is the community outreach from affluent organizations working together. And while Hartford certainly is a focal point, poverty and disenfranchised communities also exist in other areas of Connecticut and should be on UConn’s radar when pursuing similar endeavors in the future.