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Some Say It's Time For 'Pennsylvania Promise' To Help Students Afford Higher Education

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Free tuition for Pennsylvania high school graduates to attend public colleges?

Maybe that's too good to be true, but two Harrisburg think-tanks say it's time for the "Pennsylvania Promise."

"I am thrilled with the idea behind it. It is undeniable that the cost of higher education in Pennsylvania is crazy high," Saleem Ghubril told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.

Ghubril runs the Pittsburgh Promise that provides sizable college scholarships to eligible Pittsburgh Public high school graduates.

"We are third from the bottom in the United States. Only two other states are worse than us and more expensive than us," he said.

To remedy this problem, the Keystone Research Center and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center have proposed the Pennsylvania Promise.

"Like most public policy, the Pennsylvania Promise is about values. Do you want to make college affordable and restore the American dream of upward mobility for the next generation of young Pennsylvanians," says Stephen Herzenberg, with the Keystone Research Center.

If enacted by the legislature, the Promise would provide:

  • Two years of free tuition & fees at any of the 14 public community colleges
  • Four years of free tuition & fees for a student from a family with under $110,000 family income to attend any of 14 state universities
  • Four years of grants from $2,000 to $11,000 to attend state-related schools like Pitt and Penn State
  • Grants to adults seeking in-demand work skills

While students are getting the Pittsburgh Promise, who's going to get the Pennsylvania Promise?

Well, so far, nobody.

That's because the state legislature needs to pass it and needs to fund it.

It will cost $1.16 billion.

Proponents say raising the state income tax by one-quarter of one percent would do it -- so would a tax on Marcellus Shale drilling.

But it's not clear lawmakers will do anything.

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