The Weiss Institute, an initiative of Say Yes to Education, expands the capacity of communities to make it possible for all young people to earn a college degree or other postsecondary credential. Inspired by philanthropist George Weiss, who founded the nonprofit organization Say Yes to Education 30 years ago, the institute builds on the work of Say Yes with the experience and knowledge in helping communities come together to best support young people, preschool to career, on the path to adult success.

Specifically, the Weiss Institute provides tools and expertise to support communities in their efforts to:

• Identify and leverage community strengths
• Build trust and civic infrastructure, along with processes for collaborative governance
• Establish incentives to drive sustainable collaboration
• Eliminate or reduce predictable barriers to academic achievement
• Close the equity gap in education
• Break the cycles of intergenerational poverty
• Prepare young people for meaningful careers, lifelong learning and civic engagement
• Build a college-going culture and increase postsecondary degree attainment
• Improve community vitality and economic development.

Often, communities take a short-term, single-issue approach to a challenge that requires nothing less than long-term, community-wide structural and cultural change. The Weiss Institute brings together the best thinking, latest research and community-tested strategies for the benefit of communities seeking to help more students get on a path to adult success. An applied research and technical assistance center, the Institute:

• Commissions research to advance the understanding of how communities can most effectively support young people
• Organizes and leads convenings around the country where participants can learn about best practices from partner organizations and each other
• Leads site visits to communities engaging in best practice
• Provides fee-for-service technical assistance to help communities create and implement strategies locally
• Increases awareness and encourages adoption of strategies that work.

Too many young people are not graduating from high school or are graduating unprepared for and unable to pay for college or other postsecondary education. And many communities, ready to solve this problem, are seeking fresh ways to make systemic change. Over the past 30 years, Say Yes to Education has gone from helping small groups of children raise their high school graduation and college matriculation rates to partnering with entire communities to achieve these goals. Say Yes leaders developed the vision for the Institute in response to rising demand for its expertise in expanding local capacity to drive toward the goal of college or other postsecondary completion for all public school students.

There are dozens of communities that offer postsecondary scholarship programs, and others that enrich students’ and families’ lives with academic and non-academic supports. And there are research centers that study how communities can best work together, as well as organizations that offer communities guidance and technical assistance. But the Weiss Institute is the only entity that combines these elements and offers communities long-term technical assistance to integrate and scale them.

The Weiss Institute is named for philanthropist George Weiss, who made a promise in 1987 to 112 sixth graders at a West Philadelphia public elementary school: if they graduated high school, he would pay to put them through college. Weiss, who had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania two decades earlier on a full scholarship, also promised those Philadelphia sixth graders that he would provide them with the support services – academic, social-emotional, medical and legal – to ensure they were ready to seize that scholarship opportunity. Over the next 30 years, the work of Say Yes to Education, the nonprofit organization Weiss founded, evolved. Today the group partners with entire communities to make it possible for all public school students to graduate high school with the preparation and the means to complete a college or other postsecondary education.

The primary audience served by the Weiss Institute are cities, counties, and states that are interested in developing and implementing comprehensive approaches to transforming outcomes for young people. The programming of the Weiss Institute and the research commissioned by it will also be of interest to foundations, nonprofits, research organizations, think tanks, higher education institutions, policy organizations, and advocacy groups.

It is not possible to bring the Say Yes approach to every community, but the Weiss Institute can offer every community the knowledge and tools to implement their own initiative locally.

The Institute is funded through foundation and corporation partnerships, as well as fee-for-service arrangements with city, state and other government partners and non-government partners.

Yes. All research findings are made public. People need the best evidence to make the most effective decisions.

The National Advisory Board of Say Yes to Education serves as the official advisory board of the Weiss Institute. Budgets are prepared for, and approved by, the National Board of Directors of Say Yes to Education.

The work of the Weiss Institute enables communities to drive more efficient and effective use of resources by bulldozing the barriers that have long prevented one local agency from working with another, or local government from working hand-in-hand with the private sector. The partners of the Weiss Institute believe these cross-government and cross-sector strategies can be applied to other strategic priorities beyond education and can also create the foundation for greater community harmony and capacity to achieve measurable and meaningful outcomes.