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New Program Will Provide Free Community College For CCS Grads


City leaders Wednesday announced a new program to help pay for post high-school training and education for city youth. 

"We promise our Columbus City School students, starting with the Class of 2022, that if they graduate they can go to Columbus State to start the next phase of their education for free."

That's the way Columbus City Council president Shannon Hardin - himself a CCS graduate - introduced Columbus Promise, a program to pay the way for Columbus City School students to earn an associates degree or trade certification at Columbus State.  Hardin says it's not only an investment in young people, but in the city's economic future.  Research suggests at least 65 percent of the jobs in Central Ohio will require that degree of post-high school education in coming years, and Franklin County is already significantly below that level.

"The connection is access to quality training and education.  Good jobs in IT, the construction trades,  health care and even culinary arts - they all require training beyond high school."

The $9.5 million program will pay tuition, and even cover up to $1,000 dollars for unexpected expenses.  Columbus State Community College President David Harrison says the school will provide wrap around services to deal with some of the issues that

"We will provide Promise students with a unique support structure to ensure success. Personal coaches will work with small groups of students to help in both academic and non-academic needs.  Special programming that starts before high school graduation will help with college readiness and career exploration."

Harrison says Columbus State will also help students connect with 4-year bachelor programs through their Preferred Partners program already in place.

The city will contribute $4 million dollars to the first 3-year phase of the program, and Columbus State will provide $1m.  $4.5 million dollars will come from corporate and non-profit partners - $1.5 million has already been raised by the Columbus foundation, AEP and others.

At Wednesday's announcement, Fort Hayes senior Kofoworola Sholesi says the program is a chance for students who thought college was out of reach.

"I can assure you, you do not want to pass up on this opportunity.  This opportunity is not just a promise, it's access - a key.  Free college is this key for this American Dream.  I know not everyone believes in themselves, but I believe that everyone is meant to be great. Including the undocumented.  The first-borns, AKA 'second parents', who help raise their siblings because mom is working all night.  The students who struggled with their mental health so much they couldn't achieve the grades they were capable of.  The students who work full time in conjunction with their schooling, just so their family can eat.  This is for you."

To qualify for the program, students must complete a FAFSA financial aid form, a Columbus State application, and the Columbus Promise application, which goes live Monday at

A native of Chicago, naturalized citizen of Cincinnati and resident of Columbus, Alison attended Earlham College and the Ohio State University. She has equal passion for Midwest history, hockey and Slavic poetry.