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250 Inner-City 1st Graders Get Pledge of College Aid

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Merrill Lynch & Company has pledged to pay the college tuition of 250 1st graders in 10 cities, in one of the latest, and most sweeping, of corporate-support tuition programs for inner-city children.

Under the auspices of the Merrill Lynch Foundation, the charitable arm of the brokerage firm, the ScholarshipBuilder program will invest $2,000 for each student in the program to cover college expenses.

Merrill Lynch is expected to invest at least $500,000 annually in the scholarship fund, and the initial $2,000 investment for each child is expected to grow to at least $17,500 by the time those enrolled graduate from high school in the year 2000.

Students who choose to take jobs, enroll in job-training programs, or enter the military would receive a $1,000 cash payment, provided that they graduate from high school.

The National Urban League, which proposed the program, will monitor the progress of students for the next 16 years.

The program was announced late last month by William A. Schreyer, chairman of Merrill Lynch, at a ceremony at Rafael Hernandez/Langston Hughes Elementary School in the East Harlem section of New York City. In addition to New York, it will enroll students from schools in Atlan8ta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, and Washington.

Participants were randomly selected from inner-city schools ranking highly in such areas as orderliness, attendance rates, and parental involvement.

Although the ScholarshipBuilder program builds on a theme first sounded in 1980 by the philanthropist Eugene Lang's "I Have a Dream" scholarship effort, its sponsors said that it differs from similar programs by involving students at a far younger age and offering them stipends if they choose not to attend college.--pw

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