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June 26, 2020

Finding Promise Programs Near You

This blog post is part of a series of introductions for our College Promise Resource Guides, which provide students, families, and stakeholders with tools to actively participate in the College Promise movement.

This week, we look at the Catalog of Local and State College Promise Programs, a comprehensive guide that identifies over 320 Promise Programs across the nation and outlines their key features.  

What are Promise Programs?

Promise programs offer a commitment to fund a college education and student supports for every eligible, hardworking student advancing on the path to earn a college degree, a postsecondary certificate, credits that transfer to a four-year university, and/or competencies needed for success  in college, career, and community. They provide a public assurance that college is attainable and vital to prepare students for the 21st Century workforce and the pursuit of the American Dream without the burden of unmanageable college debt. And these programs provide a promise to align tuition and fees with academic, social, family, and health supports for students that, together, build a stronger pathway for college- and career-readiness .

While Promise programs vary across the country, most share a few common features:

  1. Promise programs have an explicit policy to engage students, institutions, policymakers, and the public on the importance of post-secondary education.
  2. Promise stakeholders send a clear message that college is attainable for every eligible hardworking student on the path to earn a college degree, a certificate, and/or credits that transfer to a four-year university.
  3. In addition to providing the financial award and stakeholder framework for post-secondary education, quality Promise programs acknowledge that support services are critical to college quality and success.

How can I use the Promise Program Catalog?

The Catalog of Local and State College Promise Programs provides students, families, and educators — as well as stakeholders from government, academia, higher education, philanthropy, and business — with a comprehensive guide to 320+ Promise programs, by geographic area. In an effort to make sure students throughout the United States are aware of the Promise programs available to them, the catalog offers useful information about each program, including: its eligibility requirements, the college(s) attached to the Promise, any support services provided, and whether a student must attend college full time to receive the Promise. Additionally, the catalog provides each program’s website and contact information to help students, their families, teachers, school counselors, and others take the next step in learning more about applicable programs and their application requirements.

To be included in the catalog, programs must have the following key features:

  • A public website where Promise programs commit to eliminating tuition and state approved fees for certificate programs, and may also include two- and four-year baccalaureate undergraduate degrees. Programs can use a mix of federal (Pell) and state funding to cover tuition and fees.
  • General education and/or vocational programs are considered to be eligible Promise programs. (Note that this distinction differs from other definitions.) Programs must be from accredited, degree, and certificate-granting U.S. institutions.
  • Programs can be funded by private and/or public sources.
  • Grade point average (GPA) requirements are between 0-3.0 GPA; entry requirements above 3.0 are not considered Promise.
  • State financial aid programs that are first dollar will be considered a Promise. First dollar state financial aid programs have important equity implications; with first dollar state financial aid, Pell Grants can be used to cover additional costs associated with college (e.g., textbooks, transportation, childcare, housing, etc).
  • First dollar dual-enrollment programs where post-secondary tuition is covered by the state, will be considered Promise (e.g., Minnesota, North Carolina). Dual enrollment programs where a student has to pay, i.e., TN Dual Enrollment, are not considered Promise.
  • Programs should have additional supports to ensure student success, especially for low-income and first-generation students.

For more information on finding College Promise programs near you, read the full catalog.

Additional resource that may be helpful as students explore their post-secondary options:

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