Columbus is keeping its promise to provide a tuition-free education at Columbus State Community College for all graduates of Columbus City Schools. Championed by first-generation college graduate Council President Shannon Hardin, the Columbus Promise is the “free college” partnership led by the City of Columbus, Columbus City Schools, I Know I Can and Columbus State.
Announced in 2021 and launched in 2022, the Columbus Promise program has doubled the number of Columbus City Schools graduates enrolled at Columbus State Community College for the 2022-2023 academic year. The inaugural cohort of 629 Columbus Promise Scholars is a 100% increase from 2021, when 313 CCS grads directly Columbus State that autumn.
The Columbus Promise also appeared to inspire a dramatic increase in Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completions, a critical milestone for college-going. After declining during the pandemic, Ohio saw a small 1.7% rebound in FAFSA completion, while Columbus City Schools saw a 38% increase in FAFSA completion. The gains came from a diverse array of high schools, with the largest year-over-year growth coming from Mifflin High, South High, and Independence High.
The process to become a Promise Scholar begins with CCS seniors completing the FAFSA, graduating from high school, applying to Columbus State, and filling out the
Columbus Promise application. Students who follow these steps will have their tuition and fees covered regardless of their high school grades or household income. Columbus Promise Scholars also receive an additional $1,000 annual stipend and are eligible for other stackable scholarships offered by Columbus State or other entities. That means scholars can accumulate grant funding over and above tuition that they won’t have to pay back and can use for supportive education costs, including routine life expenses. The deadline to apply for the next cohort of Promise Scholars is May 1, 2023.
Columbus State continues to swiftly build a dedicated support infrastructure for Columbus Promise program enrollment and student success. That includes both dedicated academic coaching for success in the classroom and holistic advising for life support and career guidance. The program is in the process of collaborating with major area employers to offer learn-and-earn and other supportive work-study opportunities for Columbus Promise Scholars as they proceed through the course of their college education.
The Columbus Promise is funded via a public-private partnership through June 2025. The City of Columbus and Columbus State Community College together with philanthropic and private sector partners invested the seed capital to kick-start the program. Columbus Promise partners are strategizing to ensure long-term impact, sustainability, and growth.
Columbus Promise encourages donor support at all levels. Those wishing to contribute on a personal level can donate to the Columbus Promise Fund at the Columbus Foundation, where program funds are professionally managed and invested. You can also support the Columbus Promise by participating in the Columbus Promise 5K at the OhioHealth Capital City Half & Quarter Marathon. Watch the announcement of the naming of the 2023 Columbus Promise 5K here. A full list of all the Columbus Promise donors is available on the Columbus Promise website.