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Ready to Succeed: Helping Families Pay for College

By AACC Staff

Latest tuition proposal would give students $2,000 annually to help cover the costs of a college education.

College can open the door to higher salaries later in life, but what about the financial hurdles students face while still enrolled?

Sometimes scholarships, grants and loans just aren’t enough to meet the increasing financial burden a higher education places on students. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania are the latest to consider alternative tuition measures for middle- and low-income students and their families.

The proposal, under consideration by the state legislature and supported by Gov. Tom Corbett, would give currently enrolled students up to $2,000 annually to help with the costs of their education. Dubbed the Ready to Succeed Scholarship, the award would be given to families that make less than $110,000 annually and would be applicable for full-time students who maintain a 3.25 GPA.

Speaking at a press conference in Pennsylvania, Corbett said the funds would be awarded to students who have already made education a priority in their lives. He spoke of the program in terms of an investment for the state.

The governor hopes the measure will address what he calls a “gap in the system” and has suggested that the state set aside $25 million in funds to fuel the program.

“Can we address that for students who would like to go, who are going, who are doing well, but whose parents may not be able to afford to keep them in there?” Corbett said.

More funding options

Pennsylvania isn’t the only state to consider new funding measures for students. In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam recently signed the Tennessee Promise. Starting in 2015, the measure will foot the bill for up to two years of community college or technical school for new high school graduates. To qualify, a student must perform eight hours of community service and maintain a 2.0 GPA during the terms of the award.

Lawmakers in Oregon and Michigan are weighing subsidized tuition plans with a pay-it-forward approach.

Under these proposals, full-time students could attend universities or community colleges for free but would have to agree to donate a portion of their professional earnings over a set number of years so that future students could do the same.

The Oregon legislature approved a version of its plan in July, and Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission wants to explore the model with a group of randomly selected Oregon high schoolers later this year. Lawmakers in Michigan are still considering the merits of that state’s proposal.

The programs come as several states announced tuition increases at community colleges. Earlier this month, Virginia hiked tuition by $6 a credit hour at its community colleges. Community colleges in a number of states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, have either considered or implemented significant tuition hikes that are set to go into effect next year. In Tennessee, where Haslam has been touring the state to kick off Tennessee Promise, higher education officials representing the state’s community colleges are considering tuition increases between 3 percent and 11 percent.

Is your college considering a tuition increase next year? Do you support statewide funding programs designed to pay the cost of college tuition? Tell us in the Comments. 

AACC Staff

contributed to this report.

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