Pikes Peak Community College

Pikes Peak Community College has joined with the Dakota Foundation, the Legacy Institute and Harrison School District 2 “to create an unprecedented opportunity for high school students,” according to a news release issued by the college.

The Dakota Promise Scholarship — set to start in fall 2020 — will provide free college tuition and academic support coaches to every qualifying high school graduate in the school district.

“Those conversations at the dinner table when a parent tells their child, ‘You’re not going to college. We can’t afford it’…Those conversations are over,” Dr. Lance Bolton, PPCC’s president, said in the release.

This pilot scholarship was developed with the financial support of the Dakota Foundation, which will be funding it for three years. Additional funding has been provided by the Legacy Foundation and Harrison School District is working to ensure the program is sustainable in the fourth year.

“The idea behind this scholarship is to create new on-ramps, new ways for young people in some of our most underserved areas to reach their dreams,” Bolton said. “We’re tremendously grateful to the Dakota Foundation for sharing this vision with us, and if we can find more corporate support, we’d love to expand this to the entire Pikes Peak region.”

The Dakota Promise Scholarship aims to double the number of students attending college within one year of high school graduation and get 80 percent of those students to complete a certificate or degree or transfer to a four-year college or university.

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“Education offers the most effective pathway for upward mobility in our society,” Bart Holaday, chairman and CEO of the Dakota Foundation, said in the release. “We at the Dakota Foundation, in partnership with PPCC and the Legacy Institute, are delighted to be able to create higher-education opportunities for District 2 high school graduates. The Dakota Promise Scholarship will improve their lives and our society.  As B.B. King said, ‘Education is the one thing that no one can take from you.’”

PPCC will provide participating students with intensive support from professional student success coaches which includes financial, personal, food, transportation and academic support. 

“Research has shown that this kind of financial and academic support will help more underprivileged students find successful careers. It may also affect high school student dropout rates when students can see that a college education can be a reality,” according to the release, adding, “Around the country, programs like this have seen an excellent return on investment especially for low-income, first generation students. Women and students of color also showed higher levels of achievement.”

To be eligible for the program, students must complete high school with 2.5 or better GPA, enroll at PPCC within 12 months of graduation, enroll and complete a minimum of 24 credit hours per academic year and complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form and apply for Pell Scholarships.

The scholarships would pay the difference between the Pell grants and tuition and fees, up to $5,000 per student, per year. Students must also maintain a 2.0 or better GPA to continue the scholarship.

“I feel that we’ve told our students they could go to college, but we forget that the financial barriers they face can be enormous,” District 2 Superintendent Wendy Birhanzel said in the release. “But this changes everything. We will truly be a pre-k to college district. This will be huge for our kids.”

Harrison School District 2, By the Numbers:

  •  80% Graduation Rate
  •  78% Qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch
  •  76% Identify as people of color (52% Hispanic, 14% African American, 10% Other)
  •  State Average SAT Score 1014; Harrison D2 Average SAT Score 950