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    What Are College Promise Programs?

    Cait Williams By Cait Williams
    Cait Williams

    Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

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    Reviewed by Caitlyn Cole
    Caitlyn Cole

    Caitlyn Cole is a college access professional with a decade of experience in non-profit program and project management for college readiness and access organizations.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger
    Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: November 6th, 2023
    Student researching College Promise program

    College Promise programs may or may not be something that you have heard of before. They are still relatively new and can look quite different across the states. In this article, we explain what College Promise programs are and explore the MyPromise website. We also profile a few different College Promise programs and help you find out if these programs could be of use to you! 

    What is a College Promise program? 

    College Promise programs are funding that strive to fill the achievement gaps and inequalities that various demographics of people face. With this in mind, College Promise programs seek to make college as universal, free, and as accessible as high school. 

    Also see: States with tuition-free community college

    What do College Promise programs do?

    Through the creation of financial assistance and support systems for students, College Promise programs help students navigate and earn higher education without taking on debt. College Promise programs fund up to 100 percent of tuition and fees at community colleges for recent high school graduates. In certain states, funding for four-year degrees is also available.

    College Promise program searchable databases

    The most well-known and credible College Promise database is MyPromise. The database is managed by College Promise. The “College Promise for All” is a national proposal that aims to  “deliver affordable college opportunities for all Americans.”  The best definition of My Promise is their own mission statement:

     “We are a national, non-partisan, non-profit initiative that builds broad public support for funding the first two or more years of postsecondary education for hard-working students, and ensuring those students have access to quality educational opportunities and support.”

    Keep reading to learn more about their searchable directory!

    Also see: Top need-based scholarships

    The MyPromise database

    The MyPromise’s one-stop website makes searching for College Promise programs fast and easy for students who need assistance paying for higher education. You can learn about just a few of the time saving features below. 

    The “search” option

    MyPromise also offers a feature that allows you to search programs via city, program type, school, or zip code. If you can’t find a program that is in your state or near you, try looking at nearby states. Not all College Promise programs require residency in the state the program is offered by. You can also visit the College Promise website to view a map of the United States that features all the available promise programs. Once you click on your state, you’ll be able to view the programs and their specific requirements. 

    The “compare” option

    The MyPromise page offers a special tool to allow students to compare programs. You can compare up to three programs from various states at a time. Once you hit compare, the website displays all the programs you’ve selected side by side. They’ll even have a “print” button pop up that allows you to download the information into a document! This is a great tool to use since you’ll most likely be looking at more than one program.

    Related: How to get in-state tuition as an out-of-state student

    Post-college residency

    When you begin to look at College Promise programs, you might be feeling like there has to be a catch somewhere. If you’ve seen the section on some promise programs called “post college residency,” you might be thinking, “ok, I found the catch.” Not so fast! Let’s take a few moments to talk about what post college residency is and why it shouldn’t be a deterrent factor for you. 

    Post college residency means that after you receive funding from a College Promise program, you are required to fulfill certain obligations. These obligations vary from program to program. Some require that you obtain a job within six months of graduation. Other obligations require that you volunteer with the funding organization for a short period of time. Finally, some programs don’t specify what the residency requirements are, just that there is a requirement. Always do your research ahead of time to make sure that you know exactly what is expected of you. 

    Examples of promise programs 

    Below are a few promise programs from various states so that you can familiarize yourself with what information is shared. Each one includes a brief introduction about the program and then a few points that summarize the requirements. You can click on any of them to look directly at their page on the College Promise website. 

    Excelsior Scholarship (New York)

    The Excelsior Scholarship is for New York State residents. This scholarship is designed to be used at The State University of New York, which has 64 campuses and The City University of New York, which has 25 campuses. With the Excelsior Scholarship students should pay virtually no tuition!

    • Residents of New York (min. One year of residency)
    • High School graduate
    • Have a family income of less than $125K
    • Students must work in New York after graduation for as long as they used the scholarship

    Akron Promise (Ohio)

    The Akron Promise is actually a college mentoring program. This means students will enroll in this program before they graduate high school. This program is designed for students who reside in Akron, Ohio and neighboring areas who plan to attend Stark State Community College.

    • Recent high school graduates
    • Must have full time student status 
    • Students must participate in a community mentoring program and are encouraged to go back and mentor at their high schools

    Aggie Assurance (Texas)

    The Aggie Assurance program helps students from low and middle income households. It is available to recent high school graduates, adults, and special populations who wish to attend Texas A&M University. 

    • Covers up to 4+ potential semesters
    • Must plan to be enrolled as a full time student
    • Need to be a resident of Texas to be eligible

    Canyons Promise (California)

    The Canyons Promise program is open to first-time college students who wish to attend College of the Canyons, a community college in Santa Clarita, California. Eligible students receive tuition for two full years. 

    • Must be a California resident
    • Will need to be enrolled in full time classes (min.12 credit hours)
    • No post-college residency requirements

    Also see: List of free California community college

    Other affordable college options

    Before we close out, we want to talk just a little bit about other affordable college options in case participating in a promise program is not an option for you. Don’t forget that scholarships, grants, income share agreements, community college and even things like coding bootcamps may all be great options to pursue! 

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • College Promise programs each have their differences, but there is probably one or more that can help you fund your education
    • College Promise programs cover anywhere from 4-8 full semesters of school, meaning that whether you are looking to earn your associates or obtain a bachelor’s degree, you’ll likely be able to do so
    • Most College Promise programs require full-time enrollment in order to utilize their program (always verify this with each individual program in order to be sure)
    • College Promise programs won’t provide everything you need to know or do in order to obtain a degree, but they certainly are a starting point

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    Frequently asked questions about College Promise programs

    What are the eligibility requirements for promise programs?

    Eligibility requirements vary depending upon the program you participate in. Typical requirements include having a minimum GPA, being a recent high school graduate, have filed the FAFSA, and enrolling as a full time student. But, as we said, these requirements vary. So, take your time looking at individual programs.

    Do you have to pay back College Promise programs?

    No! The purpose of College Promise programs is to act as a tool to make sure you don’t owe money when you graduate. However, some College Promise programs do require something called post-college residency. Check out the section above about post-college residency to find out more!

    How do I apply for College Promise programs?

    Each individual program has a different application. Because of that, there is unfortunately no one answer to this question. If there is a program that you are interested in, but can’t seem to find all the answers to, reach out to the program directly.

    How long do promise programs last?

    Again, this is another point that varies by each individual program. Some promise programs cover all four years as you work towards a bachelor’s degree, while some will only cover the first two years. Check with each specific program to see what they explicitly promise to cover.

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