Lawmakers Renew Push for Free College for PA Students

Renewing their call for free college for Pennsylvanians, Senator Vincent Hughes, (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery), Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia), Rep. James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia) and APSCUF President Ken Mash announced the next steps in the Pennsylvania Promise initiative at the Capitol Media Center.

Sen. Hughes is sponsoring SB 111 and Reps. Harris and Roebuck are sponsoring HB 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 complete breakdown of the program, visit senatorhughes.com/papromise)

“We should be tearing down barriers to education, not building them,” Sen. Hughes said. “The growing costs of higher education and the exploding rates of student debt are hurting the people of Pennsylvania. It is time we support our learners and give them the best opportunities for prosperity.”

Pointing to woefully low state higher education funding, the legislators said 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.

“Education is the elevator out of poverty, and unfortunately the cost of a college education has risen exponentially over the past twenty years with averages across the country more than tripling,” Rep. Harris said. “Over that same time, wages have not grown at nearly the same pace, making a college education unattainable for too many Pennsylvanians. The PA Promise plan will help make up for Pennsylvania’s terrible record on properly funding higher education and, most importantly, help our students prepare to be successful upon graduation in a global economy.”

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,” Roebuck said. “I could not imagine trying to start out after college with 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.”

Pennsylvania ranked last among the states for higher education, with student debt tuition and fees dragging down the commonwealth’s educational rating, according to U.S. News and World report.