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Gov. Wolf Outlines $200 Million Plan to Make College Affordable, Ensure Future Workforce Stability

Citing Pennsylvania’s monstrous $71.5 billion in student debt, Governor Tom Wolf today called for action on his plan to make college education an attainable goal for all Pennsylvanians.

Through his $200 million Nellie Bly proposal, Gov. Wolf hopes to offers scholarships to students who attend either a community college or PA State System of Higher Education institution.

“A good education can set a person up for a lifetime of success. But pursuing that education can often be a dream out of reach as costs skyrocket and student debt looms,” said Gov. Wolf. “Let’s help Pennsylvania students succeed and put money back into the economy, instead of shouldering them with debt equal to a down payment on a new home.”

The Nellie Bly Scholarship Program – proposed to be funded by both the federal American Rescue Plan Act and the Race Horse Development Trust Fund – would support student tuition and relevant costs of attendance with a focus on those pursuing programs with high-workforce needs following the pandemic such as healthcare, education, and public service. Students who take advantage of the program must stay in Pennsylvania to live and work for the same number of years which they received the scholarship benefit.

Gov. Wolf was joined by some of Pennsylvania’s leaders in higher education to highlight the program at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg today.

“Public higher education gives students life-changing opportunities and prepares them for dynamic careers that are in high demand and vital to state’s economic future,” said PASSHE Chancellor Daniel Greenstein. “Pennsylvania’s 14 state system universities provide the highest quality education at the lowest possible price, but for too many students the dream of a degree is still out of reach. The governor’s direct-to-student aid proposal – combined with PASSHE’s efforts to freeze tuition and transform the system – will help to ensure public higher education is an engine of social mobility and economic development for years to come.“

“To ensure the commonwealth’s workforce remains competitive, there is a growing need to encourage students to enroll and complete programs in education, healthcare or public service offered by PASSHE colleges and HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College,” said President and CEO of HACC, John “Ski” Sygielski. “This scholarship may be one way the commonwealth can decrease student’s out-of-pocket expenses, increase enrollment and completion and guarantee Pennsylvania’s workforce remains competitive, internationally.”

As Pennsylvania works to move forward following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nellie Bly proposal would remove barriers to an affordable education while simultaneously stabilizing Pennsylvania’s future workforce, as graduates would be required to maintain their Pennsylvania roots for work and life or repay the tuition through a low interest loan.

This $200 million program builds on Gov. Wolf’s prioritization and legacy of funding education to ensure that students have every opportunity to be college, career, and community ready.

“It’s past time we take action to invest in our future and ensure success for Pennsylvanians and our commonwealth as a whole,” added Wolf. “We have the resources to make this happen, we just need action from the General Assembly.”