Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) has joined the growing number of institutions across the U.S. offering “free” community college for qualifying students. SLCC Promise covers “the cost of tuition and fees when federal grants fall short” (“SLCC Promise”). The program bridges the gap between what it costs to enroll and what students can cover through federal grants, VA benefits, and other scholarships and tuition waivers. The goal is to eliminate out-of-pocket costs that would prevent students from pursuing postsecondary education (“‘SLCC Promise’ Closes”).
In order to qualify, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA) and be awarded a Pell Grant, the need-based federal grant for low-income students. SLCC Promise is expected to increase the number of students completing the FAFSA—Utah has many postsecondary students who qualify for federal financial aid but do not apply (Jacobsen).
The SLCC Promise program has additional criteria intended to increase student commitment and timely progress toward degree completion. Students must be Utah residents enrolled at SLCC full-time (12-18 credits per semester); only 27% of SLCC students enroll full-time (Jacobsen). Participants must also meet with an advisor to develop a two-year degree plan and maintain a 2.0 grade point average. The program is open to new students and continuing students who have attempted fewer than 90 credit hours. SLCC Promise can be applied toward any of the college’s academic programs (“SLCC Promise”).
When the program was announced in the spring of 2016, SLCC Promise expected to enroll between 400 and 500 students during the 2016-2017 academic year (Jacobsen). As of March 2017, it had served around 700, offering more than 1000 awards totaling nearly $800,000 (“‘SLCC Promise’ Closes”). SLCC estimates that as many as 14,000 Utah residents could eventually benefit from the program. SLCC currently serves more than 61,000 students per year across its many programs on multiple campuses (‘‘SLCC Promise’ Closes”).
SLCC Promise is being funded internally rather than requiring additional state appropriations. Administrators indicate that they are combining new management practices, student aid, scholarship funding, and additional institutional resources, including rerouting merit-based scholarships to this need-based program (Jacobsen).
Because the program covers a range of lower-division English courses, including the first-year writing sequence articulated across Utah’s public colleges and universities, SLCC Promise furthers NCTE’s commitment to supporting access to literacy education for diverse learners. If the SLCC Program encourages more students seeking the baccalaureate degree to begin their college education at SLCC, that heightens the need for four-year institutions to partner with SLCC to ensure clear transfer pathways—including pathways for relevant literacy learning—into bachelor’s degree programs.
Jacobsen, Morgan. “New Program Would Cover Tuition, Fees for Eligible SLCC Students.” Deseret News. 3 March 2016. Accessed 7 March 2017. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865649199/New-program-would-cover-tuition-fees-for-eligible-SLCC-students.html
“SLCC Promise.” Salt Lake Community College. Accessed 7 March 2017. https://www.slcc.edu/promise/
“‘SLCC Promise’ Making College Affordable for All.” PRWeb. 3 March 2016. Accessed 7 March 2017. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2016/02/prweb13231150.htm
“‘SLCC Promise’ Closes in on $800K Student Aid in First Year.” PRWeb. 7 March 2017. Accessed 7 March 2017. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/03/prweb14121343.htm