The Mesa College Promise Program (MCPP) seeks to help Mesa residents who have little to no financial options for college.
Unlike scholarships, it won’t pay a designated amount; it will cover the entire tuition with funds donated from local businesses and an $100,000 award to Mesa Community College for increased FAFSA completion.
“The impetus behind this is really that Mesa needs to have more workforce readiness,” Mayor John Giles said, “and that’s not a specific class of jobs or a specific industry. That’s all of the above.”
Cigna has already committed to support the program with a donation of $5,000. Currently, Giles and a higher education task force are seeking to raise funds through private and public partnerships instead of raised taxes. A business and philanthropy committee will be assembled to speak with local enterprises about the benefits of the program and ask for financial aid. Their overall goal is to raise $200,000 for five years, according to Amy Trethaway, task force member and Executive Director of Mesa Counts on College.
The low amount of Mesa residents who’ve completed two-year post-high school certification is a concern and incentive to the program. By 2030, Giles and the higher education task force hope to have 60% of Arizona adults acquiring two-year certification or higher.
“We’re anxious to support MCC,” Giles said. “I see MCC and the rest of the community colleges as really the best tool that we have to work on this statewide goal of Achieve60 AZ.”
Achieve60 AZ is a nonprofit with a goal to have 60% of Arizona adults ages 25 to 64 achieving a postsecondary credential or degree, according to their website.
“If we have educated students that are completing their first two years of schooling,” Trethaway said, “we can work with the business community to better train them for the rest so they have employees to hire.”
Trethaway explained how the program started after the task force met for six months and decided on three steps to increasing higher education in Mesa. Step one was to join Achieve60; step two, create an ongoing continuous education committee that looks at the higher education issues for years; step three was the MCPP.
Pinal County has a similar program, Promise for the Future, which offers their high school students free college tuition if their GPA is 2.75 or higher and they’ve completed 20 hours of community service. These specific details are still being determined for the MCPP.
“This is for Mesa high school students that are attending any of the public school districts or charter schools in the city,” Giles said. “And if they complete the FAFSA form, and they’re eligible and they have a 2.25 GPA or better, we want them to know they don’t have to worry about paying for a couple of years at MCC.”
The program is scheduled to begin by Fall 2021.