HARRISBURG, PA, March 27, 2019 – Hundreds of Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Students rallied with Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery), Representative Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia), Representative James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia), and other officials to make collective call for free college through the Pennsylvania Promise initiative.
Senator Hughes is sponsoring Senate Bill 111 and Reps. Harris and Roebuck are sponsoring House Bill 244. Both bills aim to create the PA Promise, which provides “last dollar” funding of tuition and fees after accounting for all other federal, state, and institutional grants awarded to a student. Students with a household income of $110,000 or less would be eligible for:
- Up to 4 years or an associate degree at a community college,
- Up to 4 years at state-owned and state-related,
- Any combination of community college, state-owned or state-related, not to exceed 4 years of total eligibility.
- Room and Board would be covered for students with family incomes equal to or less than $48,000.
- (For a more information on the proposed program, visit senatorhughes.com/papromise)
“We need the PA Promise now!” Sen. Hughes said. “As this movement continues to grow, we are hearing from more and more folks who are struggling because of student debt or from those who have had to defer opportunities because they can’t afford to go to college. We shouldn’t be turning away capable minds because of finances, nor should we turn a blind eye to the fact that we have a large number of homeless and starving students on campuses across the commonwealth.”
The legislators maintain that the PA Promise would help increase access for poor, working and middle-income families trying to earn opportunities through education. Helping these families would help develop the state academically and economically.
“This is not an option, it is a requirement,” Rep. Harris said. “It is a requirement that we step up as a commonwealth and make sure our young people are able to succeed and go on to be the next doctors and lawyers who will help future generations of Pennsylvanians.”
The PA Promise initiative also aims to provide funding for other postsecondary education opportunities, including for those seeking professional certificates or for participants in targeted industry programs (TAP). The goal is to encourage education and training to boost the economy.
“It is absolutely crucial that our students be given every chance to succeed and grow within their learning communities,” said Rep. Roebuck, who also serves as the Democratic chairman of the House Education Democratic Committee. “I could not imagine trying to start out after college being tens of thousands of dollars in debt, essentially paying a second mortgage. We are creating a crisis for our newest graduates and our economy. This is about providing more people with a shot at the American Dream without crippling debt. By working together, we can help guarantee success for our children, and as a result, our future.”
The rally for the Pennsylvania Promise was a part of “Higher Education Affordability Week” at the capitol, which was designated March 25-29 after Sen. Hughes introduced Senate Resolution 54 and it passed unanimously on Monday. Free college through the PA Promise is a core tenet of the senator’s mission to address soaring college costs and crippling student debt.
“I called for Higher Education Affordability Week and continue to push for free and affordable college because I have been hearing from far too many people bearing enormous financial burdens because of student debt,” Sen. Hughes said. “These conversations must continue if we are going to give Pennsylvanians a fair shot at economic security after their investment in post-secondary education.”