Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty Friday joined educators and students at Reading Area Community College to highlight Governor Tom Wolf’s plan for a new scholarship program to make college education more attainable for thousands of students and to build a pipeline of critically needed professionals in the fields of healthcare and education.
Through his $200 million Nellie Bly proposal, Gov. Wolf hopes to offer scholarships to students who attend either a community college or PA State System of Higher Education institution. The program would prioritize students pursuing degrees with high-workforce needs such as teachers, mental health counselors, school nurses and psychologists.
“Pennsylvania students are already forced to take on outrageous amounts of debt to get a college degree,” Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty said. “This scholarship program will help make college a little bit more affordable for Pennsylvanians. And it will help put our entire commonwealth on the path to a better future.”
The Nellie Bly Scholarship Program – proposed to be funded by both the federal American Rescue Plan Act and the Race Horse Development Trust Fund – would support student tuition and relevant costs of attendance with a focus on students pursuing programs where the commonwealth’s workforce needs are greatest – healthcare, education, and public service. The health care focus would increase the number of future workers in fields especially challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic such as acute care, long-term care, behavioral health, and home health care.
Students who take advantage of the program must stay in Pennsylvania to live and work for the same number of years that they received the scholarship benefit.
Hagarty was joined by legislators and members of the RACC community, including Dr. Susan Looney, RACC president.
“The Nellie Bly Scholarship Program is of special importance to those students in Berks County, as it will help build strong, successful lives in their communities, rather than leave them struggling to pay student loan bills, often working two to three jobs to make ends meet for themselves and their families,” Looney said.
“Many of our students struggle to meet the financial needs required to attend college. In turn, they pick up jobs, drop extracurriculars, or fall short of finishing their studies altogether. Under no circumstance should one’s educational ambitions be deterred simply by the price of tuition,” said state Sen. Judy Schwank.
“The Nellie Bly Scholarship Program would make a big investment in Pennsylvania’s students and demonstrate that we believe in our state system schools. It’s truly a worthwhile investment in the commonwealth’s future leaders.”
As Pennsylvania continues to move forward following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nellie Bly proposal would remove barriers to an affordable education while simultaneously stabilizing Pennsylvania’s future workforce, as graduates would be required to maintain their Pennsylvania roots for work and life or repay the tuition through a low-interest loan.
“For far too many Pennsylvania students, aspiring to attain a postsecondary education means being anchored down by a heap of student loan debt. The Nellie Bly proposal aims to alleviate this financial burden and encourage those to pursue their dream careers, while simultaneously ensuring the vitality of Pennsylvania’s workforce,” said state Rep. Manuel Guzman. “This would be a win-win scenario for our students, workforce, and institutions of higher education.”
This $200 million program builds on Gov. Wolf’s prioritization and legacy of funding education to ensure that students have every opportunity to be college, career, and community ready.