On Thursday, Mayor Jim Kenney revealed a new initiative that would make Community College of Philadelphia tuition-free for full-time students.
The goal to do this is via the Octavius Catto Scholarship, which will provide powers of education to 6,500 students over the next five years. The scholarship will be combining a funding model that covers tuition balance after federal and state scholarships and grants, according to a release.
Philly wants to invest in those living in poverty through this initiative. A release states that the Catto Scholarship will offer $1,500 per semester to full-time students to offset costs of food ($600), books ($500), and transit ($400).
Additionally, the initiative will hire new staff and faculty, which includes advisors and career coaches. These new hires will help connect students to resources in public benefits, childcare and housing to make sure they achieve their goals.
Wolf expressed his support for the initiative and said in a release that, “Every Pennsylvanian and every Philadelphian deserves an opportunity to succeed. But, when students graduate burdened under a heavy debt load, reaching goals—such as purchasing a house, buying a car, and starting a family—becomes difficult. Programs like this will increase opportunities for Philadelphians while helping build a strong, talented workforce in southeast Pennsylvania—and it will allow graduates to reinvest their salaries into the local economies instead of loan repayments.”
To pay for this initiative, the mayor is proposing $10.4 million Fiscal Year 2021. Overall, it would be $63.2 million over the City’s FY21-FY25 Five Year Plan.
“At Community College of Philadelphia, our students know that a certificate or associate degree can change the course of their lives and have a seismic effect on their lifetime earnings,” Community College of Philadelphia President Donald Guy Generals said in a release. “We are thrilled that Mayor Kenney is proposing to invest in the city’s college, as the best partner to make the transformative power of education available to even more Philadelphians.”
According to a release, to be eligible for this program, the applicant must fit the below requirements:
- Be a first-time or a returning full-time student who graduated from a high school in Philadelphia. (This includes Philadelphia public, private, homeschool, alternative and PA cyber schools, as well as individuals who earned the Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma by passing the GED or HiSET exam.)
- Be a resident of Philadelphia for at least 12 months.
- Complete the annual free application for federal student aid (FAFSA) and document an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) below $15,000.
- Meet college readiness requirements assessed at the time of their placement exams with no more than one level below college-ready in reading, writing and math.
A release also states that, to remain eligible, students must maintain Philadelphia residency, full-time enrollment (at least 12 credits per semester), a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA) after the first year in the program and meet milestones of credit attainment each of the three years for which they are eligible for the scholarship.
If a student is returning full-time, they are last-dollar tuition assistance. This program requires students to meet the same residency, high school and EFC requirements and enroll for the scholarship by summer 2021, a release states.
A student under this program need at least a 2.0 GPA and have no more 42 credits at the time of the application.
The release states that undocumented students are also eligible to apply.
Another element of the initiative is expanding opportunities for dual enrollment for the School District of Philadelphia students.
The Catto Scholarship investment also includes $500,000 for dual enrollment for Philadelphia high school students. The investment is planning on supporting at least 200 dual enrollment slots for District schools.
At the moment, 700 Philadelphia high school students are in the College’s Advance at College program.
Additionally, a release states that five-year plan includes $4 million per year in recurring operating dollars and one-time capital investment in the Fiscal year 2021.
A release states that the City of Philadelphia and CCP have established the following goals for the initiative:
- Increase three-year completion (graduation) rate to 25 percent by 2025.
- Increase retention rate from one term to another by 15 percentage points over current level.
- Increase enrollment in scholarship 10 percent higher than current number of eligible incoming Fall semester students by 2025.
- Close the gap in completion time for students of color by applying a racial and gender equity lens to ensure that all groups are performing at the highest level.
“A postsecondary degree or credential is essential for the good-paying jobs of today and tomorrow, yet the rising cost of higher education and the student debt crisis have made it virtually unattainable for far too many of our students, especially students of color,” Kenney said in a release. “The Catto Scholarship will change these circumstances, putting Catto Scholars on a path to prosperity. At the same time, it will strengthen our economy since increasing two- and four-year college degree attainment is a major driver of inclusive, economic growth.”