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The Community College of Philadelphia, the largest public higher education institution in Philadelphia, is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a new program that will offset tuition for an estimated 440 students who are eligible for Pell Grants, beginning in the next academic year.

Each year at the Community College of Philadelphia, hundreds apply, meet the academic standards, get federal financial aid, but it's still not enough and they can't afford to enroll. Now, CCP is joining what's becoming a nationwide trend and making tuition free to motivated students. "We saw an inordinate amount of students not being able to finish their registration or actually start their classes because they couldn't meet the gap between what the financial aid gave them and what they were able to afford and they dropped out," Dr. Guy Generals, CCP President, said.

Philadelphia has one of the highest poverty rates in the country at 26.5 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau. So it was that need that drove the Community College of Philadelphia to offer free tuition to low-income students. We're not skimming from the top. These are students who, for all intents and purposes, wind up coming here and in too many cases, even with aid and grant dollars, can't continue because of finances. This is a way to winnow away some of the financial barriers," President Donald Generals said.

“The reality is almost half of all the college going students in the country are going to community colleges,” Generals said. “So in many ways we’re akin to the way high schools were back a hundred or so years ago, where we are democracy’s educational institution.”

Students who are graduates of the city's high schools and are eligible for Pell Grants will have their tuition waived through the school's free community college program, 50th Anniversary Scholars.

"I think it's a new day in community colleges," said Generals, speaking about the need for more low-cost, high-quality college options in the age of rising four-year tuitions. "It's not your mom and pop's grade 13, that stereotype from 20 years ago."

Community College of Philadelphia is offering a free education to hundreds of graduating high school students as part of its “50th Anniversary Scholars” program.

The A1 rating reflects the college's prominent regional role and favorable pricing as the only community college in the city with proactive financial leadership, stable student demand, and good revenue diversity.

"Members of the Community College of Philadelphia Foundation Board so often are inspired by the determined students we meet and the success stories we hear every year,” said Arlene Yocum, president of the Foundation Board. “We are eager to help the College further its goal of educating tens of thousands of students each year, who will develop the skills and knowledge that are needed for their growth and the advancement of this city.”

The program, called the "50th Anniversary Scholars," to commemorate the college's founding, will expand "opportunity in a meaningful way for a new generation of Philadelphians,"