Legislators, Treasurer outline plans to help students pay for higher education

Legislators, Treasurer outline plans to help students pay for higher education

Author: Taylor Allen/Wednesday, June 13, 2018/Categories: Philadelphia

The “Pennsylvania Promise Plan” is the idea that the commonwealth can cover free college tuition to resident Pennsylvania high school students.

Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) introduced the plan in legislation last Monday. SB 1111, and its companion bill, House Bill 2444, comes after the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and Keystone Research Center released the layout of the plan back in January.

If passed, the plan would be applicable to community colleges, public colleges, as well as the state-relateds - Temple, Lincoln, Penn State, and Pitt. It would cover two years of tuition to community colleges and covers four years of tuition at public universities for students with a family income of less than or equal to $110,000 per year. Students whose families make less than $48,000 would be eligible for monetary help toward room and board fees as well.

In January, Ken Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculties, estimated the plan as-is would cost about $1 billion.

Hughes said his bill will cost $800 million.

“Helping our students should be priority number one,” Hughes said. “I’ve heard from far too many college students who are struggling to make ends meet.”

According to a report released last year by LendEdu, a debt-refinancing company, Pennsylvania is the state with the highest average student debt per borrower with the average student leaving school with over $35,000 in debt. The majority of Pennsylvania graduates, 69 percent, leave with debt.

The national average for student loan debt is about $30,000.

When it comes to comparing Pennsylvania to other states, the commonwealth comes in dead last for higher education, according to U.S News and World Report.

Treasurer Joe Torsella has been trying to help the student debt problem too. He began his “Keystone Scholars” program in Luzerne County last month. The program is designed to give a $100 scholarship grant to every child born or adopted in Pennsylvania for college and vocational education expenses to encourage parents to begin saving as soon as possible. A demonstration version of the project now is available in six counties and it is completely privately funded.

When asked about the chances of the promise plan being passed, a spokesman of Hughes said, "We are hopeful the Pennsylvania Promise bill will pass and are doing everything to push the legislation forward. I am working with colleagues and other legislators to make that happen."