Senator Hughes renewed his push for the Pennsylvania Promise initiative, a drive to bring free college to all Pennsylvanians, through Senate Bill 111 on Jan. 30. The PA Promise would also provide funding for those pursuing apprenticeships, trades and adult reeducation.

The PA Promise is modeled after existing programs in New York, Oregon and Tennessee. Those free college initiatives boast extremely positive results, including a reduction in student debt. Currently, Pennsylvania students carry an average of about $36,000 in student debt. Such financially crippling debt prevents student loan borrowers from buying homes and even being able to put food on the table for their families. Our system must change if we are going to push our state forward and give people the chance to live meaningful lives.

Our current students are suffering and seeing the negative impacts of exploding college costs. Learners at the Community College of Philadelphia are a clear example as 56 percent of students report food insecurity, 56 percent say they are housing insecure, and 19 percent experience homelessness, according to a report from the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice. That’s much higher than what Temple University students experience, as well as the national average.

Philadelphia College vs National College

Why do we need free college? Pennsylvania ranks 47 out of 50 in funding for higher education. That is unacceptable and must change because of what lies ahead. Right now, only 40 percent of Pennsylvanians have a higher education degree, while 63 percent of the jobs of the future will require some form higher education. We need the PA Promise to help equip Pennsylvanians for the future!

Here’s what you can do to help us fulfill the PA Promise:

  • Contact your legislators and tell them to support Pennsylvania Promise. (Click here to look up your elected officials.) Not sure what to say? Click here for sample messages.
  • Sign our petition calling for Gov. Tom Wolf to support Pennsylvania Promise legislation.
  • Spread the positive message about Pennsylvania Promise on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram using #PApromise. You can even add a #PApromise overlay to your Facebook profile photo. Senator Hughes is using #whynotfreecollege to spread the message.
  • Attend a Pennsylvania Promise rally.
  • Organize your own rally or house party. Email to get started.
  • Share your higher-education story. Click here to submit information.
  • Give. Whether you can contribute $1 or $1,000, you can help make higher education affordable in Pennsylvania.