- The Arizona Board of Regents is set this spring to roll out the Arizona Promise Program, a new guaranteed scholarship program for low-income students meant to increase the number of high school graduates in the state who immediately enroll in college.
- Qualifying students can receive up to the cost of in-state tuition and fees, after counting other financial aid, for up to eight semesters. The program covers enrollment at the state's three public four-year universities — Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona.
- The program drew inspiration from other state-run scholarships, including the long-running Oklahoma's Promise program and the Georgia HOPE Scholarship. To qualify, students must be Arizona residents and graduate from high school with a minimum 2.5 GPA. They must also complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, qualify for the maximum federal Pell Grant award, be accepted into one of the participating colleges and be enrolling full time, for the first time.
Arizona joins several other states in implementing scholarship programs called promise programs. Unlike some other well-known promise programs, such as the one in Tennessee, Arizona's is not starting out by covering tuition for two years at community and technical colleges but is instead focused on four-year universities.
It comes as state officials seek to boost college attainment. At the current rate, only 17% of today's 9th graders in Arizona will have a four-year degree by 2029, according to an analysis from the Board of Regents. By comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 48% of new jobs expected between 2019 and 2029 will require some level of postsecondary education.
The program was created by the Arizona Board of Regents and signed into law by the Arizona Legislature earlier this year. Qualifying students who are already enrolled in one of the covered universities will start receiving awards this spring.
Roughly 15,000 students currently enrolled at the three universities receive the maximum Pell Grant award, according to officials. It would cost about $57 million per year to implement the program for that many students.
But the program will be implemented over the next four years, starting with 3,700 eligible first-year students this spring who first enrolled in fall 2021. Both first-year students and sophomores will be eligible next year, with classes added each subsequent year.
The program specifically guarantees tuition and fees for students.
"We understand that by attaching the word 'guarantee' to the program, it raises costs," said John Arnold, Arizona Board of Regents executive director.
It's important to give students and their families consistency for their college planning, Arnold said. For many, that planning begins in middle school.
"When you have an 8th grader deciding what high school is going to look like for them, they should know that if they do their part, they can go to college," he said. "We want people to know this isn't first come, first serve."
The Arizona Board of Regents will market the program to high school students this spring. The board partnered with the state's Department of Economic Security and is working to reach families enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and students getting free and reduced-price school meals, said Arnold.
Should the new promise program succeed in raising college graduation for this population, the board would like to eventually expand eligibility to transfer or online students, Arnold said. He doesn't want students to view attending a two-year school as something that may penalize them down the line.
"We have strong partnerships with the community colleges in this state," Arnold said. "We really encourage students to take their first two years at a community college."
Correction: A previous version of this brief misstated the number of students who will be eligible for the Arizona Promise Program in the spring term. It has been updated to say 3,700 first-year students will be eligible.
This brief has also been updated with new information about the program's scheduled implementation and with information clarifying its cost.