Tommy Martinez just finished his first year at the New York University Leonard N. Stern School of Business, an accomplishment he never imagined for himself back when he was a high school freshman living in the projects in Brooklyn, New York.
“I was an overweight teenager and not in a financially stable environment, but as a sophomore in high school I decided to take action,” Martinez says. “I became interested in student government and began boxing, and I got involved with the ‘Give a Kid a Dream’ program, which is a nonprofit designed to provide mentorship to disadvantaged youths through the sport of boxing.”
The program sparked Martinez’s interest in business and management. He decided he wanted to study business in college.
GOOD NEWS AND ‘LIMITLESS OPPORTUNITIES’
“When it came time to apply to business school I did some research and found that NYU Stern was one of the most prestigious and well-known schools, so I decided to just submit my application and see what happens,” Martinez says.
One Saturday morning as he was about to head to the gym, he had a sudden notion that he should check his email. He had a message from NYU Stern that he had received a full-ride scholarship for all four years of school.
“I raced to the gym and read the letter to the youth advocate of the program, and she was ecstatic and said it was best news she had heard all week,” Martinez says.
“News spread like wildfire at the gym. Everyone was congratulating me. This scholarship has allowed me to attend a college where the opportunities are limitless. I’ve been able to grow, develop and become an independent adult.”
TACKLING COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY
Martinez is one of dozens of students now benefiting from NYU Stern’s new focus on affordability through its Access Initiative, which offers full scholarships for high-achieving, low-income business students.
Since the initiative’s launch in 2014, NYU Stern has increased the number of full scholarships to 34, with a goal to eventually offer 50 by 2018-2019.
“A child born into the top quartile of the United States income distribution has an 85% chance of going to college,” NYU Stern Dean Peter Blair Henry says. “The odds from the bottom quartile are just 8%, and 17% of high-achieving high school seniors come from this lower quartile.
“I think there is an important conversation to be had among universities, policymakers and the business community to have a vested interest in making education more affordable. The Access Initiative is our effort to help bridge that gap and make sure every student who is qualified is able to attend business school regardless of their economic background.”
HELPING OVERCOME THE HURDLE OF LOW INCOMES
NYU Stern was able to establish the first scholarships with a landmark gift of $5.7 million from Leonard N. Stern in February 2015. That gift has been followed by several more from such donors as Ed Barr, Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis. Stern alone has raised more than $100 million toward the NYU’s goal of having $1 billion exclusively for scholarship aid, part of the university’s “Momentum Campaign.”
Already the university is halfway to its goal.
“I think that as a business school we have an important part to play in this discussion about inequality of incomes, and one of the basic things we teach at Stern is to have a wide range of perspectives — yet we do not have in the room students from a low socioeconomic background,” Henry says.
“And while 23% of our students are Pell Grant families, we want to do everything in our power to make education affordable for all that would benefit from it.”
NYU Stern is looking for eligible students not just in New York City but across the country and globe, Henry says, and now has the means to help some of them make the most of a Stern education without the burden of debt.
Beyond its B-school’s efforts, NYU as a whole is making educational affordability a top priority. Since his arrival in January 2016, NYU President Andrew Hamilton has worked to achieve the lowest increase in year-to-year cost of attendance in 20 years, with no increase in room and board costs. Student workers are now hired at a minimum of $15 an hour.
Hamilton also appointed an Affordability Steering Committee to explore strategies to reduce the cost of an NYU education — all without hindering the university’s research and educational missions.