Dover, DE – Building on the state’s progress toward giving every Delawarean access to the education and training required to thrive in the new economy, Governor Markell has announced legislation to expand scholarships that provide two years of free college tuition to Delaware students.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Harris B. McDowell, III (D-Wilmington North) and Representative Debra Heffernan (D- Bellefonte, Brandywine Hundred, Edgemoor) enhances the Student Excellence Equals Degree (SEED) scholarship program, which is available to in-state students who graduate with and maintain in college a minimum of a 2.5 grade point average and stay out of trouble. SEED, which has impacted 16,000 Delawareans since 2007, is accepted by Delaware Tech and the University of Delaware’s Associate in Arts program, while the Inspire scholarship provides a similar opportunity at Delaware State.
In his State of the State address, Markell lauded the program for showing Delaware’s leadership in expanding access to higher education; however, he also noted that stories have shown that students who need these scholarships the most can’t access them, despite meeting academic requirements, because current rules mandate that they attend school full-time and without interruption. The proposal offered today would modify those requirements to recognize that not everyone who has earned the scholarship and gets good grades can realistically meet those demands.
Alisson Maria Nava, who spoke at an event today at Delaware Tech’s Terry Campus to advocate for the legislation, enrolled at Delaware Tech last fall to pursue biological sciences. She had to hold down a part-time job to make ends meet. Despite earning good grades, she lost her scholarship because her job commitments left her one class short of full-time status.
“If signed into law, this bill will mean that people like Alisson won’t lose their scholarships because they need to switch to part-time for a semester, or even take a few months off to address challenges that have nothing to do with their abilities to earn a college degree,” said Markell. “It will mean a stronger workforce to grow our economy. And it will mean that we have taken another step in our state’s most important mission: to ensure that opportunity is available to every Delawarean to reach his or her potential.”
Moving forward, students will have the opportunity to switch to part-time (fewer than 12 credit hours in a semester) or take time off as long as they complete their degree within six semesters, excluding summers.
“From its inception 11 years ago, the SEED program was about one thing: rewarding students for doing the right thing, even when it wasn’t the easy thing,” said Sen. McDowell, who sponsored the initial legislation launching the scholarship program a decade ago. “Students who responsibly balance their education with raising a family or working a job shouldn’t be excluded from this wildly successful program, which has helped so many Delawareans forge a path to success.”
“The SEED scholarship program has been a huge success for Delaware students, but the very people who need them the most sometimes can’t take advantage of them because they cannot attend college full time,” said Rep. Heffernan, the lead sponsor of the bill in the House. “Expanding the flexibility of the SEED scholarship program to cover students attending college part-time will allow more students to go to college, especially those juggling school and work. This change will help students individualize their secondary education and maximize their potential for success.”
“In my second semester, I found it necessary to attend college part-time due to working and taking high-level courses in my major and I did not meet the requirements to receive the scholarship in my second year,” said Murillo Navas. “I think it is important to consider students’ life circumstances and those who must also work to support themselves and therefore must attend college part-time.”
“Alisson’s story is not unique,” said Education Secretary Steve Godowsky. “We must recognize and adapt to the challenges students face outside the classroom and ensure that a great education remains available to all who have the determination to pursue it. Expanding SEED will bring us closer to that important goal.”
“SEED has been one of the great investments in Delawareans and in our economy,” said Delaware Tech President Mark Brainard. “The new proposed bill is critical to fulfilling the original intention of the SEED scholarship – to put college within reach of every Delaware high school graduate. Allowing part-time students to benefit from SEED will make it possible for many more high school graduates to further their education.”
The SEED expansion is part of the state’s multi-pronged effort aimed at meeting the Delaware Promise that, by 2025, the percentage of Delawareans with a college degree or professional certificate will match the percentage of jobs that will require one – 65 percent.
Other initiatives have included ensuring all college-ready students apply to and enroll in college, after previously as many as one in five did not.
A partnership with the McKinsey Social Initiative is providing intensive training to hundreds of unemployed and underemployed youth in key fields like health care and hospitality, while the TechHire program has supported coding schools that give underemployed individuals the chance to double or even triple their annual salaries by excelling in IT jobs.