Free college

Excelsior Scholarship increased free college awards in 2018, but not for community colleges

New York's free tuition program increased its number of awards in 2018. But students at city and community colleges continue to be underserved.

2017-18 academic year had largest state aid increase in decade

A report on 2017-18 state grants and aid shows that grant programs, including funding boosts in Florida and New York, contributed to a significant increase in state aid nationally.

College promise programs may help enrollment, report finds. Will they help now?

New research on how some free college programs affect enrollment is promising. But it comes at a time when some of these programs are being scaled back due to the pandemic.

Report: Wide Racial Disparities in Georgia Scholarships

A new study found racial inequities in what students receive scholarships that cover the most tuition costs for college in Georgia.

The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute analyzed the state's HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) Scholarship and Zell Miller Scholarship. The HOPE Scholarship covers up to 94 percent of tuition costs for students with a 3.0 GPA in high school who continue to earn a 3.0 GPA in college. The Zell Miller Scholarship covers 100 percent of tuition costs for students who achieve a 3.7 GPA in high school and either receive a high score on the SAT or ACT or achieve class valedictorian or salutatorian and then maintain a 3.3 GPA in college.

The institute found that 44 percent of undergraduate students received one of these scholarships. Recipients were most likely to be Asian American or white students, while Black and Native American students were least likely to receive the funds.

Black students made up only 6 percent of recipients for the Zell Miller Scholarship, despite making up 10 percent of the total undergraduate student population.

Students from families with higher incomes were also more likely to get these awards, the report found. Seven percent of Zell Miller Scholarship recipients have family incomes under $15,000, while 31 percent of recipients have family incomes of $120,000 or more.

University of Georgia students got twice the amount of HOPE Scholarship money as students in the entire Technical College System of Georgia, the report also found.

The report recommends that the state fund need-based scholarships that were authorized by the Georgia General Assembly in 2018 but have yet to receive funding. It also recommends expanding the HOPE Career Grant, which specifically provides tuition benefits to students pursuing certain fields at technical colleges, to all technical college fields.

Finally, the report says the state should maximize lottery funds by increasing the percentage of ticket sales turned over for education and make a plan to spend or convert excess reserve money into an endowment for education.

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Free Community College for Michigan's Front-Line Workers

Front-line workers in Michigan can now attend community college tuition-free.

Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan's governor, announced the Futures for Frontliners program Thursday. It will provide tuition-free college to about 625,000 people in the state, according to a release.

The funding will be available to those who served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic during the state's stay-at-home orders from April through June. It includes those in the medical field, as well as people who worked in manufacturing, nursing homes, delivery, retail, grocery stores and sanitation.

A person must be a Michigan resident and have worked in an essential industry at least part-time for 11 of the 13 weeks that the state had a stay-at-home order to be eligible. Applicants must also have not previously earned a college degree and not be in default on a federal student loan. The application closes on Dec. 31.

The Governor's Education Emergency Relief Fund is investing $24 million into the program.

“The vast majority of good paying jobs continue to require at least some education beyond high school,” Jeff Donofrio, director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, said in the release. “Futures for Frontliners gives those who helped save lives and kept our communities operating during the height of COVID an opportunity to increase their skills and income and helps us close the state’s skills gap. For Michigan’s economy to recover and grow, it's critical we continue to provide expanded opportunities to all.”

A long list of businesses, corporations, unions and legislators have volunteered to inform the people they work with and serve about the program.

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Louisville Nonprofit Starts Scholarship Fund

A new scholarship program in Louisville, Ky., will cover tuition and fees at some public state colleges for local public school graduates.

Evolve502, a local nonprofit working to get more children in the Louisville area to attend college, is funding the scholarship.

The Evolve502 Scholarship is open to graduates of Jefferson County Public Schools starting with the Class of 2021, according to the nonprofit's website. Students can use the scholarship to attend any Kentucky Community & Technical College or Simmons College of Kentucky, a historically Black college. It can be used to pursue an associate degree, workforce credential or as a pathway to earn a four-year degree.

It is a last-dollar scholarship that will cover tuition and fees after a student has used all available state, federal and institutional financial aid. Students from households with incomes of $40,000 or less are eligible to receive an Opportunity Grant of $1,000 per semester to help with other costs.

The scholarship will last until at least 2034, though the nonprofit hopes to raise more funds to extend the program.

To be eligible for the scholarship, students must have been enrolled in the public school district since at least the ninth grade, have graduated and be eligible for the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, which requires students maintain a 2.5 GPA throughout high school. Students who have earned a GED within 12 months of their original high school graduation date are also eligible. Those who enroll in the military shortly after graduation can defer their eligibility.

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Tennessee Promise Boosted Community College Enrollments

The Tennessee Promise, a statewide, last-dollar free tuition scholarship for community college students the state began in 2015, increased first-time, full-time undergraduate enrollment at Tennessee's community colleges by at least 40 percent, according to a new study by Hieu Nguyen, a Ph.D. student in economics at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. The journal Labour Economics published the paper.

The research also found a positive response to the scholarship, which covers fees as well as tuition, among Black and Latino students. However, it also showed a short-run reduction of about 2 percent in enrollment at the state's public four-year institutions, suggesting "some degree of substitutability between the unsubsidized and subsidized college sectors."

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Connecticut college system to use reserve funds for tuition-free community college program

Officials were determined to keep their promise to start a program, even when funding plans fell through the cracks. They're dipping into the college system's reserves -- during a recession -- to do so.

Living expenses are larger barrier for students than tuition, report finds

New report finds that financial aid mostly has kept up with rising tuition prices. But living expenses are another story.

Financial woes of states threaten free college proposals from Biden and Sanders

States would pay for large chunks of the free college plans from Biden and Sanders, but the coronavirus is sending state finances reeling.

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