City, Partners Announce Free Community College for Columbus City Schools Graduates
Columbus, Columbus State Community College, Columbus City Schools, I Know I
Can, and Private Partners Launch Phase One of the Columbus Promise
COLUMBUS, OH -- City leaders today announced phase one of the
Columbus Promise program: tuition-free education at Columbus State Community
College for Columbus City Schools graduating seniors.
“If we want Columbus to be the best place in America to learn,
earn, and find your career, then we as a community need to make bold
investments in education,” said Council
President Shannon G. Hardin.
“Our city has too many folks working hard, not earning enough while
simultaneously good-paying jobs sit unfilled. The Columbus Promise is a
strategy to get our young people the skills and credentials they need to be
prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”
The City of Columbus, Columbus State Community College, I Know I
Can, and Columbus City Schools developed the Columbus Promise based on a
national model used in other cities and states. Students who graduate from
Columbus City Schools during phase one of the program (classes of 2022, 2023,
and 2024) complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and an
application to Columbus State can attend Columbus State full-time or part-time
for up to six semesters to complete a two-year degree or shorter certificate
“The Columbus Promise represents a shared commitment to close
equity gaps and ensure opportunity for all students,” said Columbus State President Dr. David
Harrison. “This is a major step forward for students and
Once in college, students maintain funding as long as they
maintain federal aid standards for satisfactory academic progress. In addition
to covered tuition and fees, Columbus Promise Scholars will receive up to
$1,000 annually for transportation, books, and other life expenses. Columbus
State Community College will implement a robust set of wraparound career,
academic, and financial supports to help more students complete, including
dedicated Promise coaches for fixed student caseloads.
“The Columbus Promise represents an incredible opportunity for
current Columbus City Schools seniors and our future graduates. This promise
has the opportunity to change entire trajectories for our children,” said Columbus City Schools Superintendent and
CEO Dr. Talisa Dixon. “This investment from city leaders and
community partners allows a college education to become a reality. The
knowledge and experiences students will gain at Columbus State is going to
equip them with skills needed for their continued academic success and prepare
them to enter the workforce.”
Research indicates that 65% of Central Ohio jobs will require at
least an associate degree or industry-recognized credential by 2025. Franklin
County currently sits at 49.2%, more than 15% below that mark, partially
because of large racial inequities. If pre-pandemic trends continued, it would
take our community until 2060 to reach this 65% goal.
Furthermore, leading indicators suggest that the pandemic
devastated college attendance among students in urban districts across Ohio.
The future of economic development is in talent development, and the Columbus
attainment rate is trailing peer cities like Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, and
Nashville. Declining post-secondary education rates pose a threat to both
economic mobility for residents and economic competitiveness for the Columbus
“I Know I Can is proud to serve as a key partner of The Columbus
Promise initiative. Providing access to postsecondary education and training
opportunities directly aligns with our mission,” said I Know I Can Executive Director Katina
Fullen. “For over 30 years we have been supporting the students
of this city, and we are excited to administer this new program to help ensure
their success and pathway to a brighter future.”
I Know I Can and Columbus City Schools will conduct intensive
marketing and recruitment over the course of this school year to ensure
students know how to become Promise Scholars. I Know I Can’s in-school college
advising managers will assist students to fill out the FAFSA and apply to
Columbus State Community College. With committed support from local employers
like Nationwide Insurance, students will also have access to “learn and earn”
paid job and internship opportunities during their time at Columbus State.“The
only way we can reach our full potential as a city is if everyone shares in our
collective success – and that means investing in every individual who calls
Columbus home, especially our young people,” said Mayor Andrew J. Ginther.
The City of Columbus serves as the overall program champion and
is investing the initial $4 million to seed the Columbus Promise Fund, which
will be managed by the Columbus Foundation. Council will legislate the initial
public investment later this year.
The estimated costs for phase one, including three years of
Columbus State tuition and wraparound service support, amounts to approximately
$9.5 million. The cost will be split between public and private sponsors. The
City of Columbus will contribute $4 million over the course of phase one and
Columbus State will contribute $1 million to fund student success efforts for
“The Columbus Partnership strongly supports the Columbus
Promise, a powerful initiative that will accelerate workforce development and
increase equity across the Columbus Region,” said Columbus Partnership President and CEO
Alex Fischer. “The Columbus Promise will catalyze higher levels
of educational attainment, innovation and career opportunities for residents
throughout our community.”
The remaining $4.5 million will be raised from the private
sector and philanthropy. Corporate and philanthropic partners have already
begun to step up. Over $1.5 million has been raised to date between commitments
from American Electric Power, Jeff Edwards, DLZ’s Ram Rajadhyaksha, Denison
University, and the Columbus Foundation.
"The Columbus Promise is a thrilling initiative that will
further open the door of opportunity in Columbus,” said Dr. Kristina M. Johnson, president of The
Ohio State University. “Together with Ohio State’s debt-free
degree initiative, the Columbus Promise demonstrates that our community is
united in the commitment to provide pathways for all students to succeed in
college and in life. We will continue to focus on access and affordability
through Ohio State's historic partnerships with Columbus City Schools, I Know I
Can and Columbus State Community College."
External evaluators will be brought on to analyze the impact of
phase one’s three-year duration. Based on those results, program sponsors and
community leaders will consider program expansion to other school districts,
universities, to adults, and more.
"Together we can ensure that every member of the Central
Ohio community has access to the education they need and deserve,” said Denison President Adam Weinberg.
“The Columbus Promise is a huge step in that direction. I am proud that Denison
can play a role and be part of the effort to advance our city and region."
The first promise program was developed more than 15 years ago in
Kalamazoo, Michigan. Since then, the concept has spread to more than 150
communities across the nation including more than seven states. Researchers
have been able to study what works across the many programs from around the
country. Well-designed promise programs can improve high school GPAs,
graduation rates, college enrollment rates, and college completion.
Additionally, programs can yield economic benefits - promise scholars earn more
long term, communities reduce brain drain, and local tax receipts grow.
“While tuition-free college may be stalled nationally, the
announcement of the Columbus Promise shows that momentum continues at the local
and state level,” said Professor
Michelle Miller-Adams of the Upjohn Institute and Grand Valley
State University, who consulted on the Kalamazoo Promise and other programs.
“By including part-time and DACA students, avoiding high GPA requirements, and
offering aid beyond tuition and fees as well as wraparound success and transfer
pathways, the Columbus Promise offers an example of strong program design that
will benefit both students and the community.”
To learn more about the Columbus Promise, visit cbuspromise.com. To answer questions that
students and parents might have about this historic opportunity, Columbus City
Schools will host a Virtual Family Engagement Session on Thursday, November 11,
from 6:00 - 7:00p on Zoom and share more about the Columbus Promise. Families
can sign up to attend the session at www.ccsoh.us/RSVP.
“The Columbus Promise will make it possible for students to
advance toward the American Dream by giving them the knowledge, skills,
support, and resources to remove the barriers that prevent their success,” said
Dr. Martha Kanter, CEO of
College Promise, and former U.S. Under Secretary of Education
under President Barack Obama. “We applaud the Columbus Promise public and
private sector leaders for working together to give these unparalleled
opportunities to their students.”
To view a fact sheet on Columbus
Promise, click here.