The cost of a college education can keep some people from achieving their goals, but Hilbert College and Say Yes to Education Buffalo are teaming up to make it more affordable.
Hilbert, a small private college in Hamburg, has an undergraduate enrollment of about 800 students. Administrators are hoping to increase that number to 1,200 in the coming years.
While the campus is only about 10 miles from downtown Buffalo, kids from the city make up just a little more than 10 percent of the student body.
"We thought it was really important for us to be part of that renaissance with Buffalo and having the opportunity to provide access for education for all students," said Randy Bowen, Hilbert's vice president for enrollment management.
That's why the college is growing its partnership with Say Yes Buffalo. The organization helps kids from public and charter schools in the city of Buffalo with the cost of tuition to SUNY and CUNY schools and more than 100 private colleges across the country.
How much assistance the student receives depends on a variety of factors.
Hilbert is now offering an unlimited number of Say Yes scholarships, along with providing additional aid to pay for the cost of room and board on top of tuition. The school is hopeful the scholarships, along with robust course offerings and athletic programs, will draw more students.
The deal could save kids tens of thousands of dollars each year, and some will pay next to nothing.
"This provides access to those students to get those degrees in a private school setting, the opportunity to live on campus, have a residential experience that they may not have had," Bowen said.
Access and opportunity are the key words here. Say Yes helps about 2,600 students each year have the means to make it to college.
"And now with access to Hilbert and choice of the great degrees there, it just provides more opportunities for young people to thrive in our city," said David Rust, Say Yes Buffalo executive director.
Along with helping kids pay for school, Hilbert is also trying to make it easier for them to get there. The college is working on a plan for a shuttle service to bring students back and forth from the city of Buffalo to the campus in Hamburg. It will also allow students from the suburbs transportation to downtown for internships and cultural experiences.
"For students from the city to get to this campus, it's anywhere between two and three bus transfers and it's likely well over an hour commute," Bowen said. "That's just not realistic for them to do every day and also have responsibilities at home if they're living at home."
The commitment from Hilbert aims to eliminate some of the road blocks that can prevent kids from attending college or going to the school of their choice.
Hilbert has already offered scholarship packages to 40 to 50 kids through the Say Yes program for next school year.
"Our students are resilient. They work very hard, but it all counts," Rust said. "When you're able to assist with books, with fees, with things like transportation, those are game changers for families that may have limited means but want to pursue higher education.