- Career Readiness Academy
PPCC offers free tuition for Harrison District high school grads
Pikes Peak Community College has joined with the Dakota Foundation, the Legacy Institute and Harrison School District Two to create an unprecedented opportunity for high school students.
The Dakota Promise -- set to start in fall 2020 -- will provide free college tuition and academic support coaches to every qualifying high school graduate in the school district.
"Those conversations at the dinner table when a parent tells their child, 'You're not going to college. We can't afford it'...Those conversations are over," said Dr. Lance Bolton, PPCC's president.
This pilot was developed with the financial support of the Dakota Foundation, which will be funding it for three years. Additional funding has been provided by the Legacy Foundation and Harrison School District is working to ensure the program is sustainable in the fourth year.
"The idea behind this is to create new on-ramps, new ways for young people in some of our most underserved areas to reach their dreams," Bolton said. "We're tremendously grateful to the Dakota Foundation for sharing this vision with us, and if we can find more corporate support, we'd love to expand this to the entire Pikes Peak region."
The Dakota Promise aims to double the number of students attending college within one year of high school graduation and get 80 percent of those students to complete a certificate or degree or transfer to a four-year college or university.
"Education offers the most effective pathway for upward mobility in our society," said Bart Holaday, Chairman and CEO of the Dakota Foundation. "We at the Dakota Foundation, in partnership with PPCC and the Legacy Institute, are delighted to be able to create higher-education opportunities for District Two high school graduates. The Dakota Promise will improve their lives and our society. As B. B. King said, 'Education is the one thing that no one can take from you.'”
"Our organization has been working on several projects to ensure students in Harrison receive the best educational opportunities possible," said Legacy Institute CEO Zachary McComsey. "We know this will make a huge difference, and we hope to see a significant rise in graduation rates as students see a bright future through this new beyond high school."
PPCC will play a pivotal role in the success of this program by providing participating students with intensive support from professional student success coaches which includes financial, personal, food, transportation, and academic support.
Research has shown that this kind of financial and academic support will help more underprivileged students find successful careers. It may also affect high school student dropout rates when students can see that a college education can be a reality.
Around the country, programs like this have seen an excellent return on investment especially for low-income, first-generation students. Women and students of color also showed higher levels of achievement.
Harrison School District Two was chosen for this program because of its highly under-served population and long-standing partnership with PPCC. Harrison School District and Pikes Peak Community College are valuable education systems in Southeast Colorado Springs and have worked together on concurrent enrollment and have successfully graduated a cohort of students for the past three years with an associate degree one week before high school graduation. Harrison School District Two has shown their commitment to serving their students in the higher education arena. It is also one of the most diverse school districts in the region.
To be eligible for the program, students must complete high school with 2.5 or better GPA for their combined junior and senior years, enroll at PPCC within 12 months of graduation, enroll and complete a minimum of 24 credit hours per academic year and apply for financial aid.
The Dakota Promise would pay the difference between grants a student receives from financial aid, and tuition and fees, up to $5,000 per student, per year. Students must complete a minimum of 24 credit hours per academic year and maintain a 2.0 or better GPA.
District Two Superintendent Wendy Birhanzel is thrilled with the program and hopes the school district can be more of a partner than just a recipient.
"I feel that we've told our students they could go to college, but we forget that the financial barriers they face can be enormous," Birhanzel said. "But this changes everything. We will truly be a pre-k to college district. This will be huge for our kids."
About the Dakota Foundation
For more than 20 years, the Dakota Foundation has sought to combine business discipline and charitable intentions to solve social problems. With grants and program-related investments, we take an investment approach: we want the total social return of our outlays to be higher than the cost.
In doing so, we hope to foster organizations and activities that are both economically and environmentally sustainable. We help people invest in themselves to improve their economic condition and those of their families and communities. This mission stems from our values: self-reliance, personal responsibility, human dignity, equal opportunity, and the preservation of life and beauty on our earth. More info at dakotafoundation.org.
About the Legacy Institute
The vision of the Legacy Institute is to advance education and community development in Colorado Springs. Legacy has been a major champion for Harrison School District 2 and was a leading supporter of the successful 2018 $180 million bond campaign that increased public funding for upgrading and modernizing all existing buildings (including district charter schools), building one new middle school, expanding two elementary schools into K-8 campuses, and freeing up funds to attract and retain quality teachers. More info at springslegacy.org.
About Pikes Peak Community College
Established in 1968 and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, PPCC offers associate degrees, certifications in career and technical fields and two bachelors’ degrees. With three campuses, various off-campus locations, two military education centers, and hundreds of online classes, PPCC provides access to a quality, affordable and flexible education to more than 20,000 students annually with both credit and non-credit classes. More info at ppcc.edu.