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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: April 4, 2022 01:34 PM
From: Representative Jordan A. Harris
To: All House members
Subject: ​2022-2023 Nellie Bly Scholarship Program
Pennsylvania’s four-year public higher education system is unaffordable. That means the commonwealth’s most economically disadvantaged students cannot access these schools, even with maximum Pell and PA State Grants.  Students and families have to borrow to finance their postsecondary educations, resulting in student and parent debt that takes years to pay off, delaying financial independence for students and delaying retirement for their parents and/or grandparents. Commonwealth funding for public higher education has decreased over time, as has the buying power of federal and state need-based grants. Since 2010, tuition and fees at public higher education institution have increased 16 percent.  To cover these increased costs, approximately 70 percent of Pennsylvania students borrow on average $39,000 over four years to pay the difference between the cost of their education and what financial aid covers. This is the second highest debt burden among states nationally and is nearly $10,000 more than the national average of $29,900. These challenges will impact Pennsylvania’s ability to reach its postsecondary attainment goal and meet its workforce and economic needs.

To combat this growing problem, I will once again be introducing a new version of the Nellie Bly Scholarship Program that expands access and takes advantage of federal American Rescue Act Plan funds. The Nellie Bly Scholarship Program is for students attending either a PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) university or a PA community college, with priority for students pursuing careers in education, health care, or public service. The Nellie Bly program provides a scholarship to eligible full-time undergraduate students with a household income of under $104,800. For the most economically disadvantaged students, the scholarship covers the tuition and fees gap not covered by a student’s Pell and PA State Grants.  Students can receive a scholarship for up to 8 full-time semesters and must make a commitment to stay and work in the commonwealth for the same number of years they participated in the program. 

The program will serve nearly 44,000 students, reducing financial barriers and the student loan debt burden, while encouraging student progression and on-time graduation.  With less college debt, graduates can buy a car and a home, start a family, and save for retirement. College graduates will have the means to invest in their future, as well as the economic stability of the commonwealth. Please join me in strengthening the commonwealth and providing a sustainable regional workforce by co-sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as HB2497