The Richmond City Council voted Tuesday evening to include all Richmond students in a new college scholarship program. Students who earn the scholarship will receive $1,500 per year, starting with high school graduates in 2016.
After months of debates by councilmembers, Richmond students finally got an answer on the key aspects of the $35 million scholarship program, known as the “Richmond Promise.” The program is financed by a grant from Chevron Corp.
Tuesday’s discussion was continued from October 27, when councilmembers grappled with the issues of who to make eligible and how much money to award without running out of funds too quickly.
Students receiving the scholarship would get $1,500 per year for four years. However, students attending community college who choose not to transfer to a four-year college would get money for only two years.
The question of whether to include students attending charter schools and private schools in the program has been a key point of contention over the past few months. Parents, students and teachers from Richmond-area charter schools rallied to implore councilmembers to include charter school students.
For Arturo Castaneda, a 12th grader at Making Waves Academy, the Richmond Promise makes college seem a bit more affordable.
“It would really mean a lot,” he said.
Councilmembers voted this week to extend the scholarship to students attending charter schools established by 2015.
Additionally, councilmembers were divided on how much money to award students attending community college. A majority of councilmembers voted to give equal awards to students attending community colleges and four-year colleges, saying community college students also incur high costs.
Mayor Tom Butt said although he supports the idea of parity, it would cause the program to run out of money too fast. He voted against it, he said, because he was also not convinced that it costs the same to attend a community college as a four-year university.
Community colleges are meant “to provide people with low cost, convenient education in their community,” Butt said.
If the award amount remains the same, the city’s financial estimates show the program will last for eight years and benefit five graduating classes. City staff organizing the Richmond Promise let the councilmembers know that the current parameters will leave the program with an $11 million deficit after 10 years.
The city will now update a final “Strategic Action Plan” for the scholarship program and launch an application website for students.