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City, Partners Announce Free Community College for Columbus City Schools Graduates

Columbus State Community College Sign
David Holm
Columbus State Community College Sign

Graduating Columbus City School seniors will now be able to attend Columbus State Community College for free, with the City of Columbus and its community partners paying the costs.

The program, called the Columbus Promise, is a partnership between the City of Columbus, Columbus State, I Know I Can, and Columbus City Schools, and will give a full-ride tuition to CCS seniors in the 2022, 2023 and 2024 graduating class.

Students who wish to participate must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and an application to Columbus State, to attend Columbus State full-time or part-time for up to six semesters to complete a two-year degree or shorter certificate program.

City council member Shannon Hardin says the city is losing a lot of geniuses, but the program will give them an opportunity for them to pursue their dreams.

"Columbus is still the place where our young people can fulfill their dreams," Hardin said. "A student at South can be a nurse to fight this pandemic. A student at Northland can have a dream to be a lawyer, fighting evictions down at the courthouse."

Columbus City Schools superintendent Talisa Dixon said the program removes one of the biggest hurdles for those wanting to attend college — tuition. She added that this will change the trajectory for many students.

"This is what we want to give them. A promise of a brighter future. A future rich with life changing educational and financial opportunities," Dixon said.

Once in college, students will remain fully funded as long as they maintain federal aid standards for satisfactory academic progress.

Columbus Promise Scholars will also receive up to $1,000 annually for transportation, books, and other living expenses.

Columbus State president David Harrison says there is a lot of uncertainty in students and families, but that program will help remove that uncertainty.

"We're designing around the student experience, not forcing the students to live with our experiences through our organizations," Harrison said. "Promise is a real catalyst I think to changing the way students experience our great higher education institutions throughout our community."

The Columbus Promise program is based on a national model used in other cities and states.

The cost for the initiative is around $9.5 million, split between private and public sponsors. The City of Columbus will contribute an extra $4 million over three years, with Columbus State will contributing $1 million in the same time period.

Michael Lee joined WOSU in 2021, but was previously an intern at the station in 2018. He is a graduate from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism where he obtained his master's degree, and an alumnus of Ohio State University. Michael has previously worked as an intern at the Columbus Dispatch and most recently, the Chicago Sun-Times.