Keeping the Promise

In response to the Minnesota DailyâÄôs May 2 editorial âÄúA broken promise,âÄù let me clarify how the University of Minnesota will change the U Promise scholarship program. First, all Promise students will receive a scholarship, which is currently not the case.

That the lowest income students will get the largest Promise scholarships is also currently not the case. Because the âÄúfree tuition programâÄù has been for all Pell-eligible students, students with a higher expected family contribution,  or EFC, have received larger University scholarships and smaller federal and state grants than students with the lowest EFC who get smaller University scholarships or no scholarship at all and larger federal and state grants.

The Promise scholarship will be guaranteed in the same amount for four years for freshmen. Currently, the scholarship amount can vary significantly from year to year. A student might receive $5,000 one year and $500 or even nothing the next because of changes in a studentâÄôs EFC- and Pell-eligibility. More than 40 percent of students who have been eligible for the free tuition program as freshmen have not been eligible for all four years. If a studentâÄôs financial situation (e.g., EFC) does change from year to year, federal and state grant award amounts will still change accordingly.

Furthermore, all eligible students will receive a scholarship. In the past, students might receive a University scholarship one year but not the next, so the cohort of students was constantly changing. Having a well-defined cohort will allow the University to do a better job of tracking the progress of Promise students and providing special services as appropriate.

The Promise Program will be decoupled from the Federal Pell Grant Program and will no longer include a âÄúfree tuitionâÄù guarantee for students who are Pell-eligible. However, the lowest-income students will still receive an award of grants that fully covers tuition and fees.

Current students will also be grandfathered in. New students will benefit from the many changes to the program, which has been redesigned to make it stronger, not weaker.