EASTON, Pa. — Money continues to keep young people from getting college degrees. On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf urged lawmakers to act on his $200 million plan to make college more affordable.
“The program is going to focus on students who are pursuing studies in fields where there is a great need for workers, including fields facing pandemic-related shortages such as health care, such as education, public service,” Wolf said.
In return, recipients of the Nellie Bly Scholarship Program are expected to live and work in Pennsylvania for the same number of years that they receive the money.
The program, which was first proposed last year, would now include students from community colleges in addition to those from public schools. It would be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act and the Race Horse Development Trust Fund.
Local schools say they are on board.
“Because Pennsylvania ranks nearly last among the 50 states for college affordability, a scholarship program for community college students would remove some of the barriers our students face locally when pursuing a degree or credential. That’s why we think it’s important that we continue to work with policy makers to increase available scholarships and other financial supports for community college students across the state,” said Dr. Mark Erickson, President of Northampton Community College and Chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.
“We are so grateful to Governor Wolf for his support of the higher education system in the state of Pennsylvania. financial constraints by allowing them to graduate on time and with less debt.It also provides an incentive to stay in the commonwealth after graduation and like so many other KU and state system graduates , to contribute to our workforce and our communities,” said Bryan Salvadore, director of communications at Kutztown University.
A recent survey by Lehigh Carbon Community College showed that 64% of students had challenges in their professional and personal lives.
“They work well to support their families, as well as to pay tuition,” said Dr. Ann Bieber, president of Lehigh Carbon Community College. “Having any kind of scholarships is welcome for our students.”
Senate Republican leaders were unavailable for an interview Wednesday but reaffirmed their position that the governor’s budget plan to increase spending by more than $4.5 billion is unsustainable.
They continue to believe that the plan is more about the Governor’s legacy and less about the long-term financial security of the Keystone State.
69 News contacted House Republican leaders on Wednesday but did not hear back.
The average student debt in Pennsylvania is currently $39,000.
“It’s more than the cost of a new car,” Wolf said. “It’s more than the cost of the down payment on a new home. It’s money that our young Pennsylvanians could put back into their lives and, by the way, they would put it back into our economy.”
“Our college works very hard, both privately and obviously with state and federally funded scholarships, so they are very important to our students; certainly, any scholarship program, our college and our students would love to take advantage of it and be a part of it,” Bieber said.
“If we invest in our students, we will build the better future we all deserve,” Wolf said. “Now is the time to make this investment. We have it. We have to make it.”