CLINTON, N.Y. (WKTV) -- On Capitol Hill Wednesday, the founder of the 'Say Yes to Education' announced 11 more private colleges will join the program, including Hamilton College in Clinton.
"We saw this as a really unique opportunity to partner with this non-profit organization and try to get some of these types of students to a school like Hamilton," said Cameron Feist, Director of Financial Aid at Hamilton College.
The program helps provide free tuition for higher education, making college more affordable and attainable to students in urban school districts. In New York, high school graduates in Syracuse and Buffalo can avoid tuition at state universities, as it's paid for by local donations through the 'Say Yes' program.
The private institutions, like Hamilton College, will waive tuition for any 'Say Yes' student whose family's annual income is below $75,000.
Feist said joining the program is beneficial for the college and the area.
"There are students that are going to schools in Syracuse and Buffalo that have never heard of Hamilton, so being part of the 'Say Yes to Education' program allows them the opportunity to know, 'okay this is the list of schools that are saying they really want me on their campus' and that's great," said Feist.
"This is another way for us to get out to them. I think, you know, frankly, what is good for Hamilton and bringing these types of students to our campus is good for the area because particularly these students come from Syracuse and Buffalo and they're going to tend to stay in the Upstate, Central New York region for their professional careers and that's certainly going to help the local community," he said.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand hosted the event and in a statement said, "Say Yes works because it shows young people what's possible and brings those possibilities within reach. Say Yes tells our young people to think big, to dream big and gives them the chance and the tools to earn it."
The program hopes to expand nation-wide, something President Obama pushed for when he spoke about college affordability in Syracuse last month.
"We're hoping more cities follow your example because what you're doing is critical not just to Syracuse's future, but to American's future," said President Obama to a crowd at Henninger High School.
Hamilton College would like to see a similar trend.
"Given that the president is behind it, given that there is so many colleges that are eager to partner with Say Yes and organizations like Say Yes, I see no reason why there should be any limitations to where it goes nationally," said Feist.
Say Yes to Education has a total of 54 private schools after Wednesday's additions. The class of 2018 will be the first Hamilton College class to take part in the program.