Schenectady County

Neighborhood program gives scholarships to Union, SCCC

Schenectady County Community College freshman David Schaffer jumped at the chance to get free tuitio
David Schaffer, left, his mother Claudia, center, and their neighbor Laurie Affinito stand in front of their two-family Barrett Street home on Monday. David Schaffer and his brother Thomas are part of Union College’s partnership program with the Sew
PHOTOGRAPHER:
David Schaffer, left, his mother Claudia, center, and their neighbor Laurie Affinito stand in front of their two-family Barrett Street home on Monday. David Schaffer and his brother Thomas are part of Union College’s partnership program with the Sew

Schenectady County Community College freshman David Schaffer jumped at the chance to get free tuition at Union College.

Schaffer, 19, is one of two students enrolled at the community college who are among the first to take advantage of a program called the Union-Schenectady Initiative, which offers full-tuition scholarships to SCCC or Union College to students whose families own homes within the College Park neighborhood, the area west of the Union campus between Union Street and Nott Street and from Seward Place to Erie Boulevard.

The students have to meet the admissions requirements, must have lived in the neighborhood for five years and the homeowners must maintain their property to standards set by the College Park Neighborhood Association. Students must also maintain a 3.0 grade point average to stay in good standing. SCCC students can transfer to Union after the first two years.

Schaffer said his family has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years. His mother had told him about this scholarship program even before he started high school. At first he was not interested because he wanted to be a chef and Union College does not have a program like that. However, the lure of free tuition changed his mind.

“I figured it’s too good to pass up,” he said.

Schaffer is about to start his second semester at SCCC and is studying liberal arts. He is hoping to transfer to Union College and major in economics. He said he is really enjoying his experience.

“I like that it also gives you a chance to go to SCCC so you don’t rush into a really tough college. You get used to the college life,” he said.

Schaffer, who is a graduate of Schenectady High School, said he is interested in learning about how the economy works. In his free time, he works at a pharmacy and hangs out with his friends.

Schenectady County Community College tuition for full-time students is $2,890 per year.

This does not include various fees, including accident insurance, a student activity fee and technology fee, which total about $200.

This also does not include book expenses, which are estimated at about $1,000 per year, according to the SCCC Web site.

Union College costs $46,245 per year, a total cost for tuition, room, board and fees; most students pay that as only some seniors are allowed to live off-campus.

The other freshman student at SCCC is David Sutherland. He could not be reached for comment. However, a statement from SCCC said his goal is to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Union College in computer science and pursue a career in video game development.

SCCC spokeswoman Heather Meaney said the program was designed as part of Union College officials’ efforts to revive the area surrounding the college.

“They bought up all those homes in the College Park neighborhood and they revitalized them and then, as part of that, they offered this scholarship program so students can go to college for free if they meet those requirements,” she said.

In 1998, the college bought property around the college including 26 houses it turned into housing for 165 students. The cost to the college for the effort to rehabilitate the area near the campus was $10 million. The City of Schenectady contributed $1.75 million for paving, curbs and street improvements in the area of Seward Place and between Seward and Park. Union also began the scholarship program — intended to promote neighborhood stability — and SCCC joined the tuition initiative in 2001. Meaney said she thinks that no SCCC scholarships had not been awarded until now because of the five-year requirement.

Union College spokesman Phil Wajda said the school has one student enrolled at Union College through this program and another who transferred from SCCC.

Gretchel Hathaway-Tyson, director of community outreach for Union College, said she considers the program to be a success for both colleges, as well as the city.

“They are active participants in our neighborhood association. They work with Union College when there are issues within the neighborhood,” she said.

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