A recent legislative initiative in Harrisburg proposes something new and innovative for a government program – hope.The Reliable Educational Assistance for College Hopefuls (REACH) bill (HB 1722) aims to provide financial support to every exceptional high school student living in Pennsylvania. All qualified high school students, regardless of economic background, gender, race and/or religious affiliation will be eligible to receive a full scholarship to one of Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities. Or, students may receive up to $7,400 to apply toward an education at any other college or university in Pennsylvania.
To be eligible for the scholarship, students must graduate from a certified high school in Pennsylvania, including Catholic and other non-public schools. Scholars must be legal residents of Pennsylvania for three years prior to graduation. They must maintain a 3.0 or “B” average, have a 90% attendance rate and a satisfactory disciplinary record. Scholars must attend an accredited two or four year school in Pennsylvania.
Unlike other proposals, this bill is particularly sensitive to the concerns of non-public school students. “Often education programs are geared toward public schools only,” said Mary Peters Anater, Director of Education for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC). “This one provides equal opportunities to public and non-public school students alike.
“Parents of Catholic school students pay taxes just like everyone else. This proposal allows their children to take full advantage of this promising government program.”
Supporters of HB 1722 do not only wish to provide hope of attending college to deserving students, they hope it will make a difference for our communities. They hope the reward for getting good grades and not missing class will be an incentive to increase educational achievement overall.
They hope that encouraging Pennsylvania’s “best and brightest” students to remain in Pennsylvania after high school graduation will counteract the “brain drain” of young people leaving the state. Statistics show that students who remain in their home state until the age of 23 are 97% likely to settle down, start their families and remain in the state. They hope that reaching for higher educational achievement will make Pennsylvania a better place.
Catholics are encouraged to contact their state legislators and ask for their support on HB 1722.
PCC Column October 2007 by Amy Beisel, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.