Columbus Schools’ Class of 2022 First of Three Eligible for Program

More than 700 seniors from Columbus City schools have completed the full Columbus Promise application process – an initiative that allows seniors graduating from the district to attend Columbus State Community College for free.

This year’s seniors are the first of three Columbus School District graduating classes eligible to participate in the Columbus Promise. The Columbus Class of 2023 and 2024 graduates are also eligible.

Learn more about the Columbus Promise:New program offers graduates of Columbus City schools free tuition at Columbus State

Columbus Promise covers all tuition and fees at Columbus State Community College (after Pell Scholarship and all Restricted Scholarships) and provides an additional $500 per semester or $1,000 per year for books, technology, and other educational expenses for up to six semesters there.

“We want them to come in like they own the place,” Columbus State President David Harrison said of students at Columbus City schools. “We really want them to have an experience that far exceeds their expectations. We are very encouraged by the numbers and the enthusiasm.”

Application is a three-step process: Complete a Columbus Promise Scholarship application at cbuspromise.comcomplete an application with the State of Columbus and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as FAFSA.

In addition to the 700 people who have completed the application process, 274 other Columbus seniors have started the process, Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin said.

“These are people who really thought they were depressed and thought higher education really wasn’t for them,” Hardin said of participating students from Columbus City Schools. “I’m thrilled that in a few months they’ll be starting their first semester at college.”

Hardin, who attended Columbus Africentric K-8 and Columbus Alternative High School, said he had more than $160,000 in student debt.

“I will be debt free”

Columbus City Schools Superintendent Talisa Dixon speaks Thursday at a press conference about how more than 700 of the school district's 2022 graduating seniors have signed up to participate in the Columbus Promise initiative, which offers up to six semesters of tuition and fees plus $500 per semester for books and other expenses to attend Columbus State Community College.

David Ananou-Lawson recalls when the COVID-19 pandemic forced his classes at the Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center online. He didn’t know where he would go to college, but that all changed when Columbus’ promise was announced.

“The Columbus Pledge promised me that I would be debt free,” the 18-year-old eldest said. “My family doesn’t have to scramble to find funds for me to go to university. My future is secure and it didn’t cost me anything to apply.

Ananou-Lawson will be attending Columbus State this fall to study computer science with a concentration in programming.

“The promise made me feel secure that I will receive a competitive education at no cost,” he said.

Linden-McKinley STEM Academy senior Martin Robles, 17, is traveling to Columbus State to study sports management through The Columbus Promise.

“College without debt. It’s a great opportunity for people like me,” he said.

Larreal Sowell, 17, a senior at Northland High School, said Columbus’ promise is a perfect fit with his plans to earn a business management degree. He originally planned to attend Ohio State University this fall, but now plans to spend two years studying at Columbus State and then take his credits and complete his degree at Ohio State.

“It’s almost like a relief,” Sowell said. “It eased my fears.”

There are approximately 2,500 students in Columbus City Schools’ 2022 senior class, and just over a quarter of them have completed the application process for the Columbus Promise.

In previous years, between 300 and 400 Columbus graduates attended Columbus State, and that number is expected to grow with the Columbus Promise, said Columbus City Schools Superintendent Talisa Dixon.

“I look forward to seeing our scholars engage and grow on the Columbus State campus,” she said. “It gives our students the opportunity to try and all it costs them is their effort and dedication to achieve a better future.”

How does the Columbus Pledge work?

The campus of Columbus State Community College

The first class of Columbus Promise students are expected to begin graduating from Columbus State or transferring to a four-year college such as Ohio State in the fall of 2024.

Students can use The Columbus Promise to pay for all associate degree programs at Columbus State as well as most certificate programs, for up to six semesters.

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For students to remain eligible for The Columbus Promise, they must be enrolled at least part-time in the public two-year college and maintain a 2.0 grade point average.

The Columbus Promise, which has been in the works since 2019, was first announced in November. The deadline for the first application round was April 15 and the deadline for the next application round is August 15.

The approximate annual cost for a full-time student to attend Columbus State is $5,038.

Undocumented students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status will also be included in The Columbus Promise, even if they are not eligible for federal student aid.

How is the Columbus Pledge funded?

Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther speaks Thursday at a press conference during which it was announced that more than 700 graduates of Columbus City Schools 2022 have applied for the Columbus Promise initiative to earn tuition and free fees for up to six semesters at Columbus State Community College.

The estimated cost of the first phase of the Columbus Pledge is $9.5 million, which will be split between public and private sponsors. The City of Columbus will contribute $4 million and the State of Columbus will contribute $1 million.

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The remaining $4.5 million will come from the private sector. More than $1.5 million has been raised to date between pledges from American Electric Power, Columbus developer Jeff Edwards, DLZ senior vice president Ram Rajadhyaksha, Denison University and the Columbus Foundation.

New Columbus Promise investors include Bath and Body Works, Columbia Gas, Cardinal Health, Huntington, IGS Energy, Mount Carmel Health System, Nationwide, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, OhioHealth, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the Wolfe Foundation.

Columbus’ pledge is only about $200,000 short of its fundraising goal, said Katina Fullen, executive director of I Know I Can, a nonprofit group that aims to provide access to college to Columbus students.

I Know I Can, is a program partner and will place a staff member at each high school to work alongside school counselors to help students complete the FAFSA and apply for the scholarship program as well as Columbus State. .

Help fill in-demand jobs

Just under half of Franklin County residents have at least an associate’s degree or industry-recognized credentials, but research shows that 65% of jobs in Greater Columbus will require one by 2025. It would take until 2060 to achieve that goal if pre-pandemic trends persist, according to Columbus Promise partners.

Students of color are more likely to borrow more for their education. In 2018, 60% of Pell Grant recipients are students of color.

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“If we weren’t doing something like the Promise, we would be completely behind and we wouldn’t have the workforce to follow the jobs that are being created,” Hardin said.

Tuition-Free Programs

Columbus State is renovating the lower space of Rhodes Hall for $750,000 to help support Columbus Promise students.

“If you think about the Ohio State football team support system, that’s the vibe we’re trying to replicate here for these students,” Harrison said.

The Columbus pledge could also help bolster enrollment in the state of Columbus, which has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse shows community college undergraduate enrollment across the country has fallen nearly 6% since the fall of 2019.

Columbus State saw a decrease of less than half a percent in student enrollment from fall 2019 to 2020. But in the 2020-2021 school year, the community college saw a drop in enrollment. ‘about 9% of student enrollment in the fall, a loss of more than 2,400 students.

If the number of Columbus City seniors enrolled through the Columbus Promise holds, Harrison said Columbus State will have more freshmen this year than in previous years.

The first modern tuition-free program began in 2005 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where money was pledged to pay the tuition for most students graduating from public high schools in the district to attend one of the public universities or community colleges in Michigan.

Megan Henry is an educational reporter at Columbus Dispatch K-12. Contact her at [email protected] or (614) 559-1758.Follow her on Twitter @megankhenry. Sign up for his education newsletter here.

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