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El Dorado Promise subject of Yale University case study

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Yale School of Management will hold a town hall meeting Thursday in New Haven, Connecticut, to present a case study about communities that offer place-based scholarships, including the El Dorado Promise.

Murphy Oil Corp.’s $50 million college scholarship program pays tuition and fees for graduates of El Dorado High School who go on to an accredited college. The payout is based on the highest tuition and fees at an Arkansas public university. Since it was announced nearly eight years ago, 1,444 students have received the Promise scholarship.

A group from El Dorado is in New Haven to attend a national conference on these  scholarship programs called PromiseNet. El Dorado Promise executive director Sylvia Thompson says attendees have come from 20 states, and they all learn from each another.

“I have phone calls on a regular basis of people from sundry areas. I’ve made trips to Tyler, Texas, to talk to these people about developing Promise programs,” Thompson said.

Patricia Melton, executive director of the New Haven Promise, says its new program will support about a quarter of New Haven public school students with their college costs. She says Kalamazoo, Michigan, was the first to make college widely available to its high school graduates almost a decade ago. Since then, nearly 30 communities have followed suit.

“All of our cities are different. Some are larger. Some are smaller. Some have to think of more creative ways to fund college for their young people and their families,” Melton said, who is hosting the sixth PromiseNet conference.

Thompson says Promise programs vary widely. But there is one common challenge: keeping the programs afloat. Some are in a better financial position than others.

“We don’t have the issue, but it’s a huge issue and that is funding.  Kalamazoo was funded by anonymous donors, and they are still anonymous. It is funded in perpetuity. El Dorado Promise is being funded by Murphy [Oil] for $50 million,” Thompson said, adding El Dorado Promise is not actively fundraising now.

El Dorado is one of five Promise programs to be featured in Thursday’s Yale case study. Thompson will be a panelist in the discussion that will address the nationwide Promise movement and its ability to organize into a formal organization.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.
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