House Democratic Policy Committee discuss free college tuition legislation

State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., today hosted a House Democratic Policy Committee public hearing at Temple University on the PA Promise Act, his legislation that would provide free tuition for students attending Pennsylvania’s community colleges, state system universities, and state-related institutions.

Roebuck was joined by Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, and state legislators from across the commonwealth. The committee discussed H.B. 2444, which would remove substantial financial burdens on students and their families and make college more affordable.

“Free tuition makes sense. The success is proven. The pressures of getting into a good college can be stressful. The overwhelming cost that comes with it should not be one of them,” Roebuck said. “Graduates should be able to concentrate on getting good jobs and starting families, not be concerned with drowning in debt for years to come. And it is our duty to help create that reality.”

Sturla added, “Pennsylvania families are afforded the right to an excellent and thorough public education in their state constitution, but when it comes to higher education many of students are still unable to afford it. As policymakers, we must understand that investments in education are the key to move our state forward. Having people ready to fill the jobs that businesses and corporations are offering will create an enormous economic opportunity that we cannot miss. I want to thank Rep. Roebuck for bringing this great initiative to the frontline.”

The Pennsylvania Promise would be administered by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) and would cover two years of tuition and fees for recent high school graduates attending one of the 14 community colleges and four years of tuition and fees at a state-owned or state-related university for students with a family income of $110,000 or less per year. Students whose family income is $48,000 or less also would be eligible for assistance with costs associated with room and board. The grants associated with the Pennsylvania Promise would cover the “last dollar,” which is the remaining amount after all other federal, state, and institutional grants are awarded to a student.

The committee heard testimony from Mark Price, labor economist, Keystone Research Center; Dr. Chae Sweet, dean of liberal studies, Community College of Philadelphia; Dr. Ivan Turnipseed, professor and coordinator – hotel, restaurant and tourism management, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania; and Mark Rimple, APSCUF chapter president, West Chester University of Pennsylvania.