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Schumer urges DeVos to change financial-aid data policy impacting Say Yes to Education scholarship payments

Schumer at OCC
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D–N.Y.) on Monday urged U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to change a policy that is preventing students from getting financial-aid data they need to give private-scholarship providers for payments. Schumer spoke about his concern at Onondaga Community College. (Eric Reinhardt / BJNN)

Say Yes to Education is a New York City–based nonprofit education foundation that seeks to increase high school and college graduation rates for urban youth by offering financial and other assistance. Say Yes Syracuse is the local chapter.

Speaking at Onondaga Community College (OCC) on Monday, Schumer noted that the policy could delay Say Yes scholarship payments if the organization doesn’t get the data it needs from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

“The Department of Education announced a new policy that makes it much harder for students to access the data,” Schumer said in his remarks at OCC. “If they can’t access the data, they don’t get their scholarship money and they may drop out.”


With delayed payments, Syracuse students would face “steep” late fees or delayed enrollment for failing to pay their full tuition.

Thousands of Central New York students rely on scholarship money from Say Yes to cover school expenses and that Say Yes calculates the amount of funding a student receives using FAFSA data.

Schumer points the finger at DeVos, contending she “seems to have it in for any program that’s a success.”

“And my guess is this is their way … of trying to create the beginning of the end for Say Yes,” Schumer added.

The Democrat has written a letter to DeVos outlining his concern about the policy. Schumer’s office included the letter in the news release his office issued Monday.

“If we let this stand, they’ll make it worse and worse and worse. And this is bad enough because it makes it harder for students to apply. Students don’t get their funds in a timely way and many of they will have to drop out,” said Schumer.

BJNN sent an email to the U.S. Department of Education, seeking comment on Schumer’s letter and concern, but the department didn’t immediately respond.

Prior to the change, Say Yes worked with the various colleges and universities to secure the data, according to Schumer.

“The Department of Education should just back off these new changes and go to the old way. We don’t need legislation. They can just do it on their own,” said Schumer.

“All we’re asking here is simply that the federal government continues to partner with us in this effort. Say Yes in a national model. It is something we take a lot of pride in and it has given thousands of students in the city of Syracuse opportunities where they previously didn’t exist,” Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said in his remarks during the event at OCC.

The first Say Yes city-wide chapter was piloted in Syracuse, beginning in 2009 and the second followed in Buffalo four years later. Since 2009, Say Yes Syracuse has helped more than 3,800 Syracuse City School District (SCSD) graduates attend college, increasing SCSD’s college attendance rate more than 33 percent, Schumer’s office said.


Contact Reinhardt at



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