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Denver City Council lifts barriers to Prosperity Denver Fund funding for low-income students

Denver City Council lifts barriers to Prosperity Denver Fund funding for low-income students
Denver City Council lifts barriers to Prosperity Denver Fund funding for low-income students 02:21

After hours of back and forth, the Denver City Council voted "yes" to make changes to an initiative that provides scholarship funds to Denver Public School students on Monday.

"It supports DPS grads, those who choose the non-college route who just moved to Denver, who had to move out of Denver, due to our housing costs, because they are still our kids everywhere they go, said Councilwoman Jamie Torres.

Supporters said changes to the Prosperity Denver Fund would lift barriers that currently prevent some low-income students from qualifying for support because of where they live. The ordinance as it's currently written requires DPS students and alumni to live in Denver for at least 36 months to be eligible for funds, but because of displacement many go to school in Denver and live in another city. The original rules of the ordinance were created back in 2018.

Nathan Cadena, the Denver Scholarship Foundation chief operating officer, argues that since 2018, a lot has changed in the city with housing, as well as repercussions of the pandemic.

"Policy and legislation don't always move at the same rate as inflation, gentrification, cost of attendance," Cadena said.

On top of expanding residency requirements, the changes would also increase the eligibility age from 25 to 30, and would allow funds to go to certificates and apprenticeships, and not just traditional colleges.

"It means that we can use this resource, that voters have created to help more students of low-income households to access post-secondary, which improves their own wellbeing, and it strengthens our local workforce and creates more prosperous community," said Matt Jordan, the CEO of the Prosperity Denver Fund.

In 2022, about 61% of the funds weren't used because of how narrow the rules were, but with the changes some said it will "self-correct" the issues to help more families moving forward.

"It's really making some tweaks to bring the community along with us," Cadena said. "We're trying to make sure that we fulfill the promise of including the community in the future of Denver, really trying to make sure that students continue to have affordable options for professional pathways, to where they can continue to invest their lives, tax dollars if you want to be practical, back into the city and thrive along with a city that's continuing to grow at an incredible pace."

There was some hesitation on the bill from council members because it's taxpayer-funded. Councilmember Kevin Flynn voted "no" on the ordinance changes, saying he believes it should have gone back to voters to decide on it, and the appropriate language moving forward. 

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