A major challenge for the place-based scholarship initiative is the name — the Promise.
The slightest variance in the rules — if not to the benefit of the student — is seen as a broken promise, even if it is intended to strengthen the program and address sustainability for future generations.
Folks in Peoria — where the Peoria Promise is 100 percent donor funded — have grappled with this dilemma and come to a decision. Students attending Illinois Central College as a Promise scholar will need to prove themselves at the next level before funding kicks in.
In the past, like most such programs, the students were funded while enrolled, before the first final exam was taken. The Peoria Promise has adjusted its disbursement schedule. Students who qualify must now pay for that first semester out-of-pocket and wait for reimbursement once they’ve post a “C” average for the semester.
Dr. John Erwin, the president of ICC, told Marvis Herring of local FOX affiliate WMBD, “I think this is a consequence of the Peoria Promise Foundation looking at [its] donor base, listening to [its] donor base, and then believing that this is the best way that [it] can extend those dollars for a longer period of time and create accountability for the dollars. It definitely is a change. It’s definitely going to restrict it somewhat. There’s going to be fewer students using Peoria Promise.”
But Peoria Promise scholar Devyn Slick doesn’t believe it should be called “Promise” without a guarantee on the return of the funds.
This balance is a tough one. Getting the most out of donor funds might not allow for the widest opportunity, but generous opportunity might mean that there won’t be enough funds to sustain the endeavor.
It is hard to criticize any organization committed to making college affordable. Making adjustments and tweaks are often necessary as scholarship award initiatives can be forced to revisit missions, assess funding campaigns and strategies or recalculate budgets.
Cities of Promise looks to the Promise community for ideas and potential solutions for thorny issues. The comments are open if anyone has insight on how to balance the scales of funds and opportunities.