The Daily Universe

Salt Lake Community College leads free tuition trend

Salt Lake Community College has a free tuition program in place for students.

Utah and other states are working on “Promise” programs to help students fund their educations.

Salt Lake Community College student Morgan Grant talks about tuition on the SLCC Taylorsville campus. Grant’s wife qualified for the SLCC Promise and received help paying tuition when she attended SLCC. (Dani Jardine)

“The (SLCC) Promise is designed to remove economic barriers to education, to help more students attend college in the Salt Lake Valley and to provide a pathway for students to complete their degrees,” according to the Salt Lake Community College’s website.

Joy Tlou, Salt Lake Community College media and public relations director, said the money used for the Promise program comes from unused scholarships at SLCC.

Tlou said anyone can apply for SLCC Promise as long as they fill out a FASFA form and meet with a SLCC adviser.

“We want our students to get through school quickly, effectively and without debt,” Tlou said.

Salt Lake Community College student Morgan Grant didn’t qualify for the program because he’ll be going to the University of Utah in the fall, but his wife received money from the program while she studied for her associate’s degree at SLCC.

“She had to pay for a lot of it out of pocket but got to claim it on her taxes and got everything back,” Grant said.

Salt Lake Community College student Matthew Suever talks about tuition on the SLCC Taylorsville campus. Suever said the Promise Program would be helpful in paying tuition. (Dani Jardine)

SLCC student Matthew Suever said he wasn’t aware of the program but liked the idea of having the school help out with tuition instead of having to pay it all himself.

The America’s College Promise program created a federally funded program covering three-fourths of the average community college tuition, with the state covering the rest, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam recently signed the Tennessee Reconnect Act, which establishes a scholarship for adults to attend a community college tuition-free.

Oregon, Minnesota and Kentucky also have Promise programs in place to waive tuition and fees for newly-graduated seniors.

Dustin Weeden, senior policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said states like Tennessee with a free college program have seen an enrollment increase, but there are not definitive studies on it yet.

Weeden said Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, New York and Montana are beginning Promise programs next year.

Weeden said the message Promise programs give is everyone can afford to go to school. He said the problem is the benefits often go to wealthier students rather than the lowest-income students.