Pennsylvania could potentially become the latest state to provide free higher education. Per the Pennsylvania governor’s website, Governor Tom Wolf announced in his 2020 Budget Address last week a proposal for a new $204 million scholarship program.
The all-new Nellie Bly Scholarship Fund, Wolf said, will provide education funding to students on the primary basis of need.
As part of his $36 billion budget, Wolf said that one of the top priorities for the upcoming year is the cost of education. Pennsylvania has one of the highest costs of education rates in the nation.
According to Wolf’s plan, the scholarship will be directed primarily towards low-income students, whose only means of paying for college is financial aid.
After graduating, students will be required to remain in Pennsylvania for the same number of years that they received funding.
Wolf said that not only will this help more students graduate on time with less debt, but also the state will benefit from the qualified and talented workforce generated by this venture.
The scholarship will provide funding to cover whatever existing finances do not.
As a result of this scholarship, upwards of 25,000 students from all 14 public colleges and universities in the state could go to college for free.
New York State began offering a similar scholarship to its residents back in 2015. The Excelsior Scholarship, as it was called, was only available to students from families with an annual combined income of less than $125,000 per year.
After graduating, students are required to live, work, and pay taxes in New York State for however many years that they received the scholarship.
This prospective program is named the Nellie Bly Scholarship Fund after an early 20th-century college student named Nellie Bly. Bly attended briefly what is now the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
After dropping out of college because it had become too expensive, Bly became a pioneering journalist, whose work brought about significant reform in the mental health system.
Today, more and more students are having to drop out of college due to rising costs and unaffordable student bills.
At East Stroudsburg University alone, more than one hundred students were forced to leave campus this semester after the outstanding balance on their bills had become too much for them to pay.
“We have so many talented and intelligent students on this campus who cannot complete their education because of financial restraints,” Nisar Patel of the university’s Student Government Association. “This fund will help fix that issue.” At the beginning of the year, the university’s Student Government Association created a GoFundMe to help as many students as possible remain in school.
Governor Wolf’s plan to generate the money for this new scholarship effort is to redirect $204 million from the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Fund to the Nellie Bly Scholarship Fund.
This idea has sparked outrage from those in Pennsylvania’s horse racing community, who fear this may be the downfall of horse racing in Pennsylvania.
State system chancellor Dan Greenstein commended Wolf on his proposal, telling Penn Live that the Nellie Bly Scholarship Fund represents a turning point for Pennsylvania’s higher education system.
The system ranks among the worst in the nation in student loan debt, averaging an estimated $37,000 dollars per student. Pennsylvania also ranks 48th in the U.S. in financial aid allocation to its students.
Wolf’s proposal comes fresh on the heels of Chancellor Greenstein’s state of the system address in which making college more affordable for low-income students in Pennsylvania was the focal point.
Governor Wolf hopes that this new scholarship fund is just the beginning of turning point in the state system of education and the lives of its students.
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