PA Senate Approves Bills to Support Affordable Pathways to Higher Education

Member Group : News Releases

HARRISBURG – Tens of thousands of students would have more opportunities to pursue affordable post-secondary education and career preparation programs under a package of bills approved with bipartisan support by the Pennsylvania Senate this week.

The Grow PA package creates and expands programs to connect students to high-demand careers in Pennsylvania. The bills not only make education and career training more affordable, but also provide strong incentives for students to stay and work in Pennsylvania for a period of time after completing their degrees and certifications.

Senate Bill 1150, sponsored by Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Senator Scott Martin (R-Lancaster), would create the Grow PA Scholarship Grant Program. The program would provide grants of up to $5,000 per year for in-state students who attend college in Pennsylvania, pursue a degree in a high-demand industry, and agree to live and work in that industry in Pennsylvania after graduation.

Grant recipients would be required to live and work in Pennsylvania for at least 15 months for each year they accept the grant. Failure to meet this requirement would result in the grants being converted to a loan that must be repaid.

High-demand industries include agriculture, computer science, criminal justice, business, education, engineering, nursing, trades, special education, STEM education and allied health. These industries may be adjusted going forward in consultation with the Independent Fiscal Office.

Senate Bill 1151, sponsored by Martin, would create the Grow PA Merit Scholarship Program. The program would help attract high-performing out-of-state students to Pennsylvania educational programs in Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools. The merit scholarships would allow students pursuing in-demand occupations to pay tuition at in-state rates, rather than out-of-state rates.

Like the scholarship program for in-state students, merit scholarship recipients would be required to live and work in Pennsylvania after graduation, or have the scholarships converted to loans. The list of high-demand industries would be the same as the Grow PA Scholarship Grant Program.

“Pennsylvania faces serious economic and demographic challenges in the years ahead as more and more of our young people are pursuing education and employment opportunities in other states,” Martin said. “Grow PA sends a powerful message that if young people are willing to learn here and put down roots here, we’re willing to invest in their future in Pennsylvania.”

Senate Bill 1152, sponsored by Senator Devlin Robinson (R-Allegheny), would expand the popular Ready to Succeed Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to good students to cover the cost of post-secondary education. The bill would increase household income limits from $126,000 to $175,000 and allow students with at least a 2.5 GPA to qualify, making more students eligible for assistance.

It is estimated that the changes could allow as many as 24,000 additional students to be eligible to receive assistance.

“I am thrilled to sponsor legislation to expand the popular Ready to Succeed Scholarship Program, which helps students be able to better afford higher education opportunities,” Robinson said. “I hear from my constituents constantly about the struggle of student loans and debt just because they want to further their education. Senate Bill 1152 will be a breath of fresh air for these individuals, their families and our communities.”

Senate Bill 1153, sponsored by Senator Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery), would expand the Fostering Independence Tuition Waiver Program nationwide for children to attend PASSHE schools. Under current law, children in the foster care system and children who were adopted in Pennsylvania qualify for financial aid and tuition waivers.

The legislation will waive tuition and mandatory fees after the application of federal and state grants available to the student. Expanding the program nationwide would allow adopted and foster children from other states to benefit from these programs in Pennsylvania.

“Many of our young, talented individuals are simply in need of a chance to succeed. This is especially true for our foster care children, who often face significant barriers when seeking access to postsecondary education,” Pennycuick said. “Let’s give foster care kids across the nation the opportunity they seek right here in Pennsylvania.”

Senate Bill 1154, sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Ryan P. Aument (R-Lancaster), would add performance-based metrics to funding for state-related universities, including the University of Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania State University, and Temple University. Under the legislation, standards would be developed by a new Performance-based Funding Council that will consider factors like graduation rates, retention rates, employment rates and salaries, and other key indicators.

The bill would add a critical layer of accountability to public dollars dedicated to these institutions.

“A performance-based funding model will ensure our universities are focusing on the important issues facing students, families, and our communities by measuring factors such as affordability and the number of degrees in high-demand occupations in the Commonwealth,” Aument said. “Measuring the ability of these institutions to meet the needs of students will bring accountability to the significant investments we make in higher education, ensuring that graduating students are ready to take jobs in Pennsylvania, boosting our economy, and improving taxpayers’ return on investment.”

Senate Bill 1155, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chair David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill), would develop a new Higher Education Task Force to improve higher education and career preparation programs going forward, including increasing community college transfers, expanding dual enrollment, encouraging employer incentives, increasing student enrollment from other states, and boosting efficiencies in higher education.

“The pressing issues facing our colleges and universities will not be solved overnight,” said Argall. “Encouraging ALL of our institutions of higher education to meet and plan for a challenging future will better prepare our students for in-demand careers here in Pennsylvania.”

The Grow PA package also includes Senate Bill 750, sponsored by Martin, which would require high school seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines eligibility for federal, state and school financial aid programs.

Completing the FAFSA ensures families have access to vital information on aid packages for higher education, career and technical education, certificate programs, and more. Senate Bill 750 was approved by the Senate last June and was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The Grow PA plan also includes historic investments in career and technical education and dual enrollment.

More information on Grow PA is available at



CONTACT:           Jason Thompson (Martin)

Stephanie Applegate (Aument)

Jim Brugger (Argall)

Kevin Battle (Robinson)

                                Matt Szuchyt (Pennycuick)