$1.6 million in foregone revenue on the college’s part, he says,
adding that he did not yet have number for fall 2018.
Students in the program have taken about one-third more
credit hours than others without any negative impact on GPA
and are on track to finish roughly one semester ahead of their
non-Promise peers, Lepper says. But while legislators, community leaders and high school partners are enthusiastic, students
and their families have been slower to bite.
“We have to educate the greater community and get folks
to understand what it means and why it’s impactful,” he says.
“People are saying, ‘What’s the catch? There’s no such thing as
a free lunch.’ And in essence, we’re offering that. We’re man-
aging perceptions and getting people to understand how the
About 30 percent of students do not accept awards offered to
them, perhaps because of the requirements, and SLCC is spending
at least some effort in rethinking those—to be more welcoming
to part-time students, for example. But broadly speaking, SLCC
sees the program as a unique investment that will make college
more accessible to a broader swath of its community.
“Everybody wants to make college affordable and see people
succeed,” Lepper says. “If this is a mechanism to do that, it’s
hard to say no. If you can get folks through the pipeline into the
workforce or a four-year institution, it’s a good investment.”
In Mohave County, Arizona, Mohave Community College
(MCC) students for the first time in 2017-18 benefited from the
MCC Future Fund, which provides aid to students who live in
the county, qualify for in-state tuition, recently graduated high
school, enroll in at least six financial aid-eligible credits and
maintain a 2.0 GPA. With limited funding, the MCC Future Fund
gives a preference to those who do not receive Pell grants.
MCC’s board of governors has awarded roughly 200 schol-
arships each of the last two school years, totaling $541,000, says
Heather Patenaude, financial aid director. Promise programs
are necessary due to the rising costs of college and increasing
perception that scholarships are only for straight-A students
and star athletes, she says. “Ultimately, our economy is driven
by the kinds of work that require some level of education or
training after high school,” she says. “That’s where the Future
Fund comes in at MCC. … They’ll earn higher incomes than those
without a college education, which contributes to the overall
financial health of the county. This is a self-feeding cycle.”
A growing number of states have seen the promise of College
Promise programs, as well. The Tennessee Promise scholarship
and mentoring program, for example, provides two years of
tuition-free attendance at one of the state’s 13 community colleges or 27 technical colleges, covering last-dollar fees.
More than 50,000 students have taken advantage of Tennessee
Promise in the past three years at a cost of $67.5 million, according to James Snider, Tennessee Promise Scholarship director at
the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation. The numbers
have risen modestly but steadily over that time. Nearly 80 percent
of public school graduates have applied for the scholarship,
which does not have specific academic requirements beyond
a diploma or GED, and acceptance to an eligible college.
In fall 2015—the first year of the program—enrollment surged
at community and technical colleges overall, and while numbers decreased at first among four-year institutions in the state,
“some of that decrease is coming back as students are transferring,” Snider says. The most significant change in the program
to date has been the pushing back of an “overly ambitious”
verification deadline for federal financial aid.
The mentoring piece of the program will roll out this fall
with help from partner organizations Tennessee Achieves
and the Ayers Foundation. “They will be working on student
success, identifying the high-risk population, and helping
those students and working with them through the process,”
he says. “The factors may involve being first generation in
their family (to attend college) or lower income.”
Another two-year-old state-level program is Oregon
Promise, which awarded funds to nearly 7,000 students in 2016-17
and nearly 9,500 in 2017-18—between 10,000 and 11,000 are
currently enrolled in community colleges around the state
—with an annual budget of about $20 million. The program
targets recent high school graduates who maintain a 2. 5 GPA.
Oregon Promise provides at least $1,000 per student, so that
even if their Pell grant covers tuition they receive the money for
books and fees, and it maxes out at the average tuition cost of the
state’s 17 community colleges, about $3,400 per year. During the
second year of the program, the state had to cap participation
based on expected family contribution, but “we were able to
remove that cap for this year and will be back to a universal pro-
gram,” says Ben Cannon, executive director of Oregon Promise.
Among the program’s challenges: the average age of com-
munity college students in Oregon is 25, but people that age
are not eligible for Promise because it’s aimed at recent high
SLCC President Deneece Huftalin with students, faculty and staff after the launch
of the SLCC Promise. I m