Salt Lake Community College administrators are calling the inaugural year of the Promise program a success.
During the 2016-17 school year, 770 students received SLCC funds to fill the gap between their federal Pell grant and their total tuition bill. The Promise program is intended to make tuition free for low-income, full-time students who do not receive enough grant money to cover their entire tuition cost.
Eric Weber, assistant vice president for student enrollment, explains how the program works.
“Once the Pell grant is applied to the tuition and fee balance, any shortage is covered by a tuition waiver,” Weber says. The school redistributed merit-based tuition waivers to fund this program.
To be eligible, a student must be a Utah resident, qualify for a federal Pell grant, be a full-time student and have a two-year degree plan. They must also maintain a 2.0 cumulative GPA, complete 70 percent of attempted courses and have taken less than 90 credits.
Weber goes on to explain that the students in the Promise program were awarded “approximately $1,070 per year on average.” Joy Tlou, director of public relations at SLCC, states that approximately $800,000 in support was awarded.
There is no separate application process and no cost to apply.
A student simply has to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, aka FAFSA. However, Utah is traditionally poor at completing the FAFSA.
According to the Utah System of Higher Education, 70 percent of eligible Utah high school graduates did not complete a FAFSA in 2014-2015, the highest among all states. SLCC is now trying to change that statistic.
Cristi Millard, director of the financial aid, explains her office’s efforts to help current and future students apply for federal aid.
“Currently, SLCC offers seven workshops per month to assist students in completing the FAFSA. These are held at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus, the South Campus and West Valley Center,” Millard says. “We are working with other institutions of higher education within the state to increase completion of the FAFSA.”
SLCC visited high schools for open house events through the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA) to help students complete the application. In the 2016-17 year, they completed more than half of the 70 workshops done statewide.
The FAFSA deadline for the 2017-18 school year was Friday, June 30, 2017. The open date to apply for the 2018-19 year is Sunday, October 1, 2017. It is too soon to know if the number of students helped will increase in the coming year, but Millard expects that it will.
Eric Weber says that the future goal for the Promise Program is “to increase the number of students participating in the program and subsequently increase students with degree plans attending SLCC as a full-time student.”