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Columbus Promise Program Doubles Columbus City Schools Enrollment at Columbus State for 2022-2023 School Year

Campus News | Friday, October 21, 2022

The free college initiative resulted in 629 CCS 2022 grads joining Columbus State’s first cohort of Columbus Promise scholars.

Columbus Promise
First-Year Celebration

The Columbus Promise program has doubled the number of Columbus City Schools graduates enrolled at Columbus State Community College for the 2022-2023 academic year.

The “free college” partnership led by the City of Columbus, Columbus City Schools, I Know I Can and Columbus State has resulted in an inaugural cohort of 629 Columbus Promise Scholars – an 100% increase over 2021, when 313 Columbus City Schools students graduated and enrolled directly into Columbus State that autumn.

“The energy around the Columbus Promise is powerful,” said David T. Harrison, Columbus State President. “The interest, enthusiasm, and commitment among students and their families is inspiring. We’re excited to seize the momentum and support these students who have taken this life-changing step at Columbus State.”

The Columbus Promise program is designed to narrow equity gaps in college achievement and to produce a more diverse and skilled workforce in the region:

  • Of the 629 Columbus Promise Scholars, 78.9% qualify for a full or partial Pell award, the federal government’s primary financial aid program for low-income students. While Pell eligibility is a combination of household size, income, and expenses, most Pell recipients come from families that make less than $30,000 a year, and almost all make less than $50,000 a year.
  • The majority of Promise Scholars identify as Black (51.8%). 14.5% identify as Hispanic, 5.2% as Asian, and 11.1% as white. (The remaining students chose not to provide information regarding race.)
  • Students opted to study a wide array of fields, with health sciences (24%) and business and hospitality services (21.9%) leading the way.

“The Columbus Promise is off to a strong start,” said Shannon G. Hardin, Columbus City Council President and program champion. “Similar programs typically boost enrollment by 30%, and the Columbus Promise flew past that goal. As a product of the district who is still paying off my student loans, I’m tremendously excited for the next generation to prepare themselves for a great job while avoiding student debt.”

The Columbus Promise also appeared to inspire a dramatic increase in Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completions, a critical milestone for college-going. After declining during the pandemic, Ohio saw a small 1.7% rebound in FAFSA completion, while Columbus City Schools saw a 38% increase in FAFSA completion. The gains came from a diverse array of high schools, with the largest year-over-year growth coming from Mifflin High, South High, and Independence.

“This tremendous outcome for our 2022 CCS graduates reflects the excitement around this amazing opportunity for our students and sets the stage for our 2023 graduates to follow,” said Talisa Dixon, Columbus City Schools Superintendent/CEO. “That first step of completing the FAFSA motivated so many of our students to pursue college. Now, the Columbus Promise is providing the infrastructure to strengthen and grow outcomes moving forward.”

Promsie info graphic

Columbus State continues to swiftly build a dedicated support infrastructure for Columbus Promise program enrollment and student success. That includes both dedicated academic coaching for success in the classroom and holistic advising for life support and career guidance. The program is in the process of collaborating with major area employers to offer learn-and-earn and other supportive work-study opportunities for Columbus Promise Scholars as they proceed through the course of their college education.

“Our children are our city's future, and we owe them every opportunity to succeed from their earliest years through high school graduation and beyond,” said Mayor Andrew J. Ginther. "I am grateful to our partners at I Know I Can, Columbus State and Columbus City Schools for helping to realize this ambitious and innovative undertaking, and for contributing so significantly to this collective community lift."

Beyond the 629 students, another 85 Columbus City Schools students who have enrolled in Columbus State have partially fulfilled the requirements to become a Promise Scholar and may earn that status by the end of the semester, totaling 714 students who are benefiting from Columbus Promise college access programming, supplemental financial aid, and student services.

“I Know I Can is proud to be a key partner in the Columbus Promise program, helping to ensure more hardworking CCS students have an opportunity to pursue postsecondary education,” said Executive Director, Katina Fullen. “We can’t overstate the importance of FAFSA completion as it continues to be a leading predictor for college enrollment and attendance.”

Promsie info graphic

The Columbus Promise is funded via a public-private partnership through June 2025. The City of Columbus and Columbus State Community College together with philanthropic and private sector partners invested the seed capital to kick-start the program. Columbus Promise partners are strategizing to ensure long-term impact, sustainability, and growth. The City of Columbus has engaged the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research based in Kalamazoo, MI to conduct a third-party evaluation of the program; they have consulted on multiple promise programs around the U.S.

The process to become a Promise Scholar begins with CCS seniors completing the FAFSA, graduating from high school, applying to Columbus State, and filling out the Columbus Promise application. Students who follow these steps will have their tuition and fees covered regardless of their high school grades or household income. Columbus Promise Scholars also receive an additional $1,000 annual stipend and are eligible for other stackable scholarships offered by Columbus State or other entities. That means scholars can accumulate grant funding over and above tuition that they won’t have to pay back and can use for supportive education costs, including routine life expenses.

Columbus Promise encourages donor support at all levels. Those wishing to contribute on a personal level can donate to the Columbus Promise Fund at the Columbus Foundation, where program funds are professionally managed and invested. A full list of all the Columbus Promise donors is available on the Columbus Promise website.


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