PA Promise is an empty one

The Editorial Board wants a realistic debt-relief program for students.

Last month, state Sen. Vincent Hughes and state Rep. James Roebuck reintroduced the Pennsylvania Promise Act, a program to reduce the cost of college for in-state students.

The Philadelphia lawmakers’ bills would cover the remaining tuition of high school graduates with maximum annual family incomes of $110,000 to attend community colleges, state-owned universities and state-related universities like Temple. Room and board assistance would also be available for students whose families make $48,000 or less per year.

But when the bill was reintroduced, a way to pay for the projected $1 billion annual cost of the program was not. Students shouldn’t place faith in it until there is a clear way it can become reality. A spokesperson for one of the program sponsors told The Temple News its payment pathway was purposefully left out of the bill.

Students across the country are feeling the weight of rising college costs and loan debt, and Pennsylvania’s students carry more than most, with the second-highest average debt of any state, according to The Institute for College Access and Success. 

We need a real, concrete debt relief plan. We can’t keep waiting; we need a real solution with real funding now.

And this is possible. The Tennessee Promise began in 2015 and covers two years of tuition at community and technical colleges through a statewide endowment.

Both bills are in committee, the step before they reach the floor for a vote. It’s possible for legislators to come up with a way to fund this pricey initiative. But students shouldn’t hold their breath about this PA Promise until elected officials show a way they can keep it.

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