As you consider creating a College Promise program, there are several program design decisions you will need to make. To guide you through this process, we’ve created a set of questions for you to ask. Each question expands to show some of the possible characteristics you could adopt for your program relevant to that question.
A core function of Promise programs is to reduce the financial burden of higher education. The way these programs interact with pre-existing federal, state, and/or institutional financial aid depends on the amount of available Promise funding, the number of students to be served, and the program’s eligibility and persistence criteria for completion. Common methods include:
The amount of Promise funding awarded to an eligible student does not take into account any additional funding or grants that the student is eligible for (e.g., a federal Pell Grant). Therefore, a “first-dollar” Promise program covers the direct costs of attending college, and has the potential to reduce the associated costs that come with being a student, such as textbooks, transportation, childcare, school materials, and other college costs.
The amount of College Promise funding awarded to an eligible student takes into account any additional public funding or grants the student is eligible to receive (e.g., a federal Pell Grant, state financial aid, etc.). The total amount of “last-dollar” Promise funding a student receives varies depending on other financial aid for which the student is eligible.
Last Dollar Plus:
In a “last-dollar plus” program the amount of Promise funding awarded to an eligible student takes into account any additional public funding or grants the student is eligible to receive (e.g., a federal Pell Grant). Different from a traditional “last-dollar” model, a “last-dollar plus” program offers additional financial aid to students, for example, a minimum guaranteed scholarship amount, or a stipend for a specific cause (e.g., a book stipend).
There is no one-size-fits-all way to fund a Promise program. A program’s funding stream will depend on the available public and/or private financial resources available.
Publicly funded Promise programs can draw on a variety of public sources of funding. Common sources include: local, state, and/or federal government funds in the form of direct appropriations (mandatory, discretionary, or one-time appropriations); tax revenue; or a publicly sourced endowment; among others.
Privately funded Promise programs can draw on a variety of private sources of funding. Common sources include: private donations from corporations and/or individuals; revenue from a privately-established endowment; philanthropic organizations; institutional aid (costs covered directly by a college); or local nonprofit organizations, among others.
Public-Privately funded Promise programs draw on a combination of the above funding sources to operate.
Promise programs use specific eligibility and persistence criteria to determine which students the program will serve and benchmarks for continuation in the program. Some common criteria include:
Recent High School Graduates
These programs target recent high school graduates, typically within 6 months of their high school graduation.
Adults of any Age
These programs do not use age as a factor to determine eligibility.
Grade Point Average (GPA):
Programs may choose to set a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) achieved by a student in high school (ex. 2.0, 2.5, 3.0) to determine eligibility.
High School Type:
These programs include students who received a General Educational Development (GED) certificate instead of a high school diploma.
These programs include students who graduate from a public high school, typically these programs focus on graduates from a specific high school, a public school district, or public high schools within a specified city or state.
These programs include students who graduate from a private high school.
These programs include students who graduate from a homeschool program.
These programs include students who graduate from a charter school.
These programs take into account a student’s citizenship status. Some programs are explicitly limited to U.S. citizens, while others include residents of the locality or state, including undocumented students.
Many Promise programs take into account a student’s financial need as eligibility criteria. Typically, this is determined by requiring a student to fill out the federal government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
Most Promise programs require students who receive a Promise scholarship to meet certain benchmarks to maintain their eligibility status from semester to semester or year to year as they persist to earn their postsecondary degrees or certificates. Common requirements include:
Some programs require that students in a Promise program maintain a minimum GPA level (e.g., 2.0, 2.5, 3.0).
Minimum Course Load:
Some programs require that students in a Promise program maintain a minimum course or credit load (e.g., requiring full time or part time enrollment).
Some programs require that students in a Promise program complete a required amount of community service hours per semester or academic year.
Participation in Supplemental Promise Program Activities:
Some programs require that students in a Promise program participate in supplemental activities (e.g., meet with a mentor, participate in specified Promise cohort activities, take required classes, pursue guided pathways, meet with a counselor or advisor to plan their course of study, etc.).
Completing the Federal Government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA):
Many programs require that students in a Promise program complete and submit a FAFSA application each academic year.
The amount of time a Promise program will help fund a student’s education depends on the program’s design. At a bare minimum, to be considered a Promise program, the program must cover a student’s tuition and fees for at least one semester. This information is tracked in the College Promise Campaign’s interactive map.
More than 4 semesters
Promise scholarship funds can be applied to a variety of educational institutions. Exactly which type of institutions are covered depends on the program’s mission, relevant partners, and the amount of funding available, among other factors. Our interactive map categorizes these differences in the following ways:
2-year public, or private nonprofit institutions. These include community colleges offering certificates for a specific occupation and/or the Associate’s degree and Career and Technical Schools offering certificates.
4-year public or private nonprofit institutions. These include colleges and universities offering a Bachelor’s degree.
Includes all types of the institution types described above.
The geographic area a Promise program serves often depends on which entity administers the program, the overarching goals of the program, and the financial resources available to fund the program, among other factors. Common types of geographic coverage include:
A Promise program covers students in an entire state.
A Promise program covers students in an entire county.
A Promise program covers students in an entire city.
A Promise program covers students who enroll in a specific educational institution.