A rally in support of more affordable access to post-secondary education in Pennsylvania is taking place on Wednesday in Harrisburg. In a move of solidarity with the “PA Promise” initiative, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) has come out in support of the proposed legislation currently in both the Pennsylvania state house and senate.
PA Promise spawned from a joint report by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and Keystone Research Center entitled “The Pennsylvania Promise: Making College Affordable and Securing Pennsylvania’s Economic Future”. According to the PA Promise website, state lawmakers have since introduced legislation for the 2019-20 session in the form of House Bill 244 and Senate Bill 111.
Kathryn Morton is a communications director for APSCUF for the state office in Harrisburg. She said that letters were sent out to all universities within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) encouraging faculty and students to attend Wednesday’s rally.
“One of APSCUF’s primary goals is to ensure a quality education at an affordable price for students,” Morton said. “We invited all chapters from every university within the state system to come out and voice their support for PA Promise. We’re hoping to see as many students participating as possible.”
PA Promise, through House Bill 244 and Senate Bill 111, has four main goals they hope to achieve through the passing of proposed legislation:
- Cover two years of tuition and fees for any recent high school graduate enrolled full-time at one of the Commonwealth’s 14 public community colleges
- Cover four years of tuition and fees for any recent high school graduate with a family income less than or equal to $110,000 per year accepted into one of the 14 universities in PASSHE
- Provide four years of tuition and fees not to exceed the State System tuition rate, depending on family income, for students accepted into a state-related university
- Finance the expansion of grant assistance to adults seeking in-demand skills and industry-recognized credentials, as well as college debt
Morton said that students who want to help support PA Promise should contact their legislators and tell their stories of financial struggle due to the price of tuition and additional fees.
“This is all about making tuition and fees more affordable so students can attend college with less of a financial burden,” Morton said. “Students have to pay for books, school supplies and day-to-day expenses like food on top of what they’re already paying in tuition.”
APSUF is one of several state institutions to come out in support of PA Promise. According to their website, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Pennsylvania Student Power Network and Education Voters of Pennsylvania are signed on as partners of the initiative. Three state senators and 18 state representatives have also come out in support of the respective bills.
Wednesday’s rally is the first organized by supporters of PA Promise, Morton said. The SRU chapter of APSCUF distributed flyers on campus last week announcing free transportation for students to the rally from Aebersold Recreation Center parking lot. The bus will be departing at 4 a.m. and arriving back in Slippery Rock at 8 p.m.