Gov. Wolf’s Scholarship Proposal Will Help Thousands of College Students Learn and Stay in Pennsylvania

February 26, 2020

Governor Tom Wolf today visited Pennsbury High School in Bucks County to meet with students and parents about the rising costs of higher education. The governor discussed his historic scholarship proposal to help thousands of lower- and middle-class students attend one of the 14 universities in the state system.

Unveiled during his budget address, the $204 million Nellie Bly Scholarship Program would close the gap after a student’s Pell Grant and other state grants to cover tuition and fees at Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities, allowing more students to graduate on time with less student loan debt.

“The student debt crisis is a burden on young people and their families that can last for years,” said Governor Wolf. “It holds young people back from finishing their degree, buying a car or a home and saving for retirement. The Nellie Bly Scholarship is an investment in young people so they can graduate, stay in Pennsylvania and build rewarding careers and lives here.

“Every parent wants a better life for their children. This is that opportunity for thousands of students.”

To be eligible, students must enroll full-time in a PASSHE undergraduate program and qualify for a federal subsidized student loan. Students must commit to live in Pennsylvania after graduation for the same number of years they received the scholarship. If a student leaves the state early, they must repay the money.

“The Nellie Bly Scholarship Program is good for our communities, it’s good for our PASSHE schools, and it’s good for young Pennsylvanians,” said Governor Wolf. “It’s also the perfect next step to strengthen our workforce after expanding apprenticeships and hands-on job training for those who don’t want to go to college.”

The scholarship is named in honor of Nellie Bly, an Armstrong County native born in 1864. Bly attended the Indiana Normal School, now Indiana University of Pennsylvania, but left due to the cost. Bly became a pioneering journalist who helped to force reforms to the mental health care system in the early 20th century.

Nearly a century later, higher education remains too expensive for many low-income and middle-class families. The student loan debt for Pennsylvania residents is $68 billion, among the highest in the nation, averaging over $37,000 per student.

Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities are a vital contributor to the state’s economy, generating an estimated $6.7 billion of economic activity annually. The system has more than half a million alumni living in Pennsylvania and 90,000 students at Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester universities of Pennsylvania.

The scholarship program will be funded by annually repurposing revenues from the Horse Racing Development Fund. Since the fund’s inception, Pennsylvania has provided $3 billion to subsidize horse racing, unprecedented support for a single industry. This funding will invest in our students instead of subsidizing an industry that has stabilized and grown.

In addition to the Nellie Bly Scholarship Program, the governor’s budget invests in higher education with $12.9 million to support PASSHE’s System Redesign and a $60 million increase for the Pennsylvania State Grant Program, which serves more than 130,000 students and will increase the maximum award to $4,700.

The governor’s budget also provides a $435 million increase for pre-k to 12 education, including $100 million more for public schools using the fair funding formula, $25 million more for special education and $30 million more for high-quality early childhood education. The budget also saves school districts $280 million through comprehensive Charter School Law reform.

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