Pa. Senate implements key elements of the Republican plan to increase the affordability of state colleges

The Pennsylvania Senate on Monday advanced key elements of Republicans’ plan to make higher education more affordable and accessible in Pennsylvania. Their plan, which they call “Grow PA,” runs counter to a proposal by Gov. Josh Shapiro and Democratic lawmakers to address college affordability.

Broadly speaking, Senate Republicans’ plan would cover scholarships for students coming to Pennsylvania and beyond who wanted to get into high-demand areas of the workforce, offering funds and scholarships to students studying in those fields. The terms of the program would require students to remain and work in the state for a period after graduation.

Two bills intended to do just that have been amended in the full Senate and are likely to be passed in the coming days.

Another bill to expand eligibility for the existing Ready to Succeed scholarship program, aimed at lower- and middle-income Pennsylvanians studying to enter high-demand areas, passed, with all but three senators voting for it.

The bill would raise the qualifying household income limit from $126,000 to $175,000 and lower the GPA requirement from 3.25 to 2.5.

According to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Devlin Robinson (R-Allegheny), this bill would make an additional 24,000 students eligible for the scholarship.

“These small but important changes will make more students eligible for aid,” Robinson said.

Opposing the bill, Sen. Art Haywood (R-Montgomery) said the novel $175,000 limit would not sufficiently target students from lower-income families. He also opposed lowering the GPA requirement to 2.5.

“This creates a shift in prioritizing the students we will support,” Haywood said.

These bills directly contradict Democrats’ plan to address higher education affordability. The plan, developed by Shapiro earlier this year, is largely aimed at capping tuition costs at $1,000 overall for Pennsylvanians attending state and local schools and combining the management of those schools.

Shapiro lays out a sweeping plan for higher education reform in Pennsylvania

Not all of the bills introduced on Monday were partisan or controversial.

One bill that would provide scholarships to out-of-state students in foster care or adopted as older teenagers passed the Senate unanimously.

“I’m always happy to see our state becoming more welcoming to students in foster care, no matter where they come from,” said Sen. Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny).

The Senate also voted to advance bills that are part of the broader “Grow PA” package, which seek to commission a study to transition from a higher education funding model to an outcomes-based model and create a broader higher education task force, respectively.

Both bills were advanced primarily along partisan lines.

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