By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Students who have attended Birmingham City Schools are eligible for a free in-state tuition program through the Birmingham Promise Program, Mayor Randall Woodfin announced Wednesday.
The Birmingham Promise is a public-private partnership that launched this summer that helps BCS students with apprenticeships at local businesses. The first phase of the program was launched this summer; and Woodfin announced on Twitter Tuesday the second phase.
“Starting in 2020, any Birmingham City School student that walks across the graduation stage will have the opportunity to attend any in-state two- or four-year school tuition free. #BirminghamPromise.”
On Wednesday, the mayor provided additional information about the program during a Facebook and Instagram livestream.
“The Birmingham Promise has two parts, the first part is a major apprenticeship program for every Birmingham City high school junior or senior where they have the opportunity to leave high school early, work for an employer where they’re interested in a future career . . . the second part of the Birmingham Promise… when we say tuition free, we actually do mean that. For any Birmingham City Schools graduate who would like to attend a two-year or four-year public college or university in the state of Alabama, they should be able to attend tuition free.”
The students must live in the city limits of Birmingham and must attend BCS. If a student is in BCS all 12 years and lives in the city limits all 12 years, they are eligible to receive 100 percent of the tuition free said Woodfin.
However, “if you’re only in the system four [years], then you only get 4/12th of the tuition free,” he said. “We want to make sure that this program is for the children who are in Birmingham and have attended Birmingham City Schools in fairness.”
When it comes to funding the mayor said the city will make an initial investment over the next five years of a minimum of $10 million. A majority of the remaining money will be led by private donors and fundraisers, he said.
“Some people will choose to be public, others will choose to be anonymous, but collectively, the goal over these years will be to sustain this funding, create an actual endowment and make sure for every high school graduate going forward, starting with the May 2020 class,” he said.
Students and their families are still encouraged to apply for federal aid or other scholarships, but what is not covered by those will be covered through the Birmingham Promise, the mayor said.
That means families should still apply for their FAFSA, pell grants, scholarships and any other aid, however if they have a shortage or a gap, the Birmingham Promise will cover that amount, said Woodfin.
“If a young person takes the ACT or SAT, they apply to enter a college and they don’t qualify for any money, then whatever their tuition is we will 100 percent pay for it. However, if they apply for monies and say their tuition is $10,000 and they only qualify for $1,000, then the Birmingham Promise will support the remaining $9,000 so we will be a last dollar tuition free program,” he said.
The goal is to invest in the future of our young people, he said.
“The Birmingham Promise since its inception has always been about how do we make real, genuine down payments in investing in our youngest generation, the return we want, the return we need to improve the quality of life for families in this city, decrease crime in this city and to give our young people opportunities in this city, this is how we do it,” said Woodfin.