Working to bring fairness and equality for students seeking a higher education, Rep. Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland) today introduced legislation that would create a Pennsylvania College Voucher Program.
The program would provide grants directly to students interested in technical schools, community colleges, schools within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), private colleges and major universities. Nelson’s plan would include a five-year phase-in, so existing university students would not be impacted.
“Traditional college is not for everyone, and in fact, many of the job openings we see today and are forecasted for the future require more of a technical education,” Nelson said. “We are already changing the way we think about post-secondary education. Now is the time to reinvent the way we fund it as well.”
Nelson’s plan would redirect more than $580 million in taxpayer dollars previously allocated exclusively to the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Penn State University. It would instead be used to expand the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), which has a proven record of success in managing financial aid for students.
“PHEAA estimates this program could help as many as 41,000 more students as they pursue a higher education that will help prepare them for a successful, family-sustaining career,” Nelson said. “Rather than using that $580 million to help only those students who choose to attend Pitt, Penn State or Temple, we should make it available to assist ALL students who choose to pursue a higher education. My goal is to ensure stability to existing Pitt, Penn State and Temple students.”
Under Nelson’s bill, direct yearly grants of up to $8,000 would be available to students in households earning up to $100,000. Students in households earning between $100,000 to $250,000 would receive direct yearly grants of up to $4,000.
Nelson noted the schools could also continue providing additional tuition assistance to students using their own assets, as many do currently. In fact, according to a recent report in the Tribune-Review, if Pitt and Penn State continued to provide the same level of out-of-pocket discounts for in-state students, tuition savings would be greater than what in-state students are receiving under the current system. The analysis shows that an in-state Pitt student whose household earns less than $100,000 would save up to $14,100, which an in-state Pitt student whose household earns between $100,000 and $250,000 would save up to $10,100. Similarly, an in-state Penn State student whose household earns less than $100,000 would save up to $15,900, while an in-state Penn State student whose household earns between $100,000 and $250,000 would save up to $11,900.
“This proposal would truly empower students who are looking for more affordable education opportunities to make the best choices for them and their future,” Nelson said.
House Bill 2639
will likely be referred to the House Education Committee for consideration.
The 57th Legislative District includes the following Westmoreland County communities: the city of Greensburg; the townships of Hempfield and Salem; and the boroughs of Delmont, Hunker, New Stanton, South Greensburg, Southwest Greensburg and Youngwood.
Representative Eric Nelson
57th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jordan Frei