Rep. Tony Payton Proposes Legislation to give EVERY Pennsylvania Kid The Ability to Afford College

Sometimes YPP writer, youngest PA State Rep. ever, and all around good guy Tony Payton has proposed some incredibly good legislation. Called the REACH Scholarship, the program would, in effect, provide full, free college tuition to PA State Universities to every single academically achieving kid in the Commonwealth.

Let's say that again: Every. Single. Student.

The REACH Scholarship will provide a full scholarship, covering tuition and fees, to all high school students, regardless of economic background, gender, race and/or religious affiliation. Every public, private and parochial school student who meets the base criteria would be eligible for the REACH Scholarship. Studies on similar initiatives implemented in other states, such as the “HOPE Scholarship” in Georgia, have shown significant improvements in both the states’ secondary and higher education systems.

As Tony says, this is both morally good, and economically smart. In effect, Pennsylvania would be making a massive investment in our future- what economists call human capital. The effects of a similar program in Georgia showed that after the program was started, the average Georgia kid did much better in general.

The program also makes sure kids are staying in PA. If you don't stay in the State for five yeas post-graduation, your grants for the program turn into low interest student loans. In other words, we will make college affordable, and then incentive kids to stay.

Click Read More to see more of the program details. But while I am sure there is quite a long road to hoe to get anything like this on the board- having a State Rep actively going after it is very good news.

If Georgia can do it, so can we.

• REACH Scholars must graduate from a certified high school in PA.
• REACH Scholars must be a legal resident of PA for three years prior to graduation.
• REACH Scholars must maintain a “B” or 3.0 average and an 85% attendance rating.
• REACH Scholars must have a satisfactory disciplinary record.
• All merit based criteria are calculated by statistics accumulated during the students’ sophomore, junior, and senior years.
• No Pennsylvania resident may be grand fathered into REACH.
• SAT scores are not calculated into REACH criteria.
• REACH Scholars must apply for all state and federal financial aid.
• REACH Scholars must apply/attend an accredited two or four year school in PA.

• REACH Scholars must maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA in college.
• REACH Scholars who fall below a 3.0 GPA will be put on academic probation.
• Once on academic probation a REACH Scholar is never to fall below a 3.0 in any individual semester. To do so a REACH Scholars would permanently forfeit REACH eligibility.
• To be a REACH Scholar, you must be a full time student.

• PHEAA will be implementer of the REACH intuitive.
• The REACH Scholarship Program will cost approximately $350 million.
• A REACH scholar may only attend an institution of higher learning within the state of Pennsylvania.
• REACH scholars will receive funding for tuition and fees at all state universities.
• REACH scholars who attend private institutions will receive the average cost of tuition and fees of the fourteen state universities.
• REACH applies to all institutions of higher learning, including community colleges in the commonwealth.
• In order to receive funding, REACH scholars must remain in Pennsylvania four years after graduation. If they do not remain in the commonwealth, the REACH Scholarship will become a low interest loan the students must pay to the state.

Why Pennsylvania needs the REACH Scholarship Program

1. The REACH Scholarship will increase academic performance across the board in PA high schools. A study in 2004 of Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship showed that students who maintained a 3.0 and 80% attendance (GA standards) increased 50% in the first six years of the program. Georgia College freshmen also have increased SAT scores by 60 points during the tenure of the HOPE scholarship, whereas the nation average increased by merely 20 points during this time. This is strong evidence to support the positive effects that a state-wide, merit based scholarship, such as REACH can have on the secondary education system in a state.
? Students will show up to school more often. (REACH scholars must have at least 85%)
? Students will behave better in the class room. (REACH scholars must have a satisfactory disciplinary record)
? Sets the bar or achievement higher for students (REACH scholars must have a cumulative 3.0 GPA)
? Gives teachers an effective motivational tool to use as an incentive to encourage students to perform. (Full scholarship to a PA state school.)

2. One objective of HOPE and REACH is the keep the best and the brightest students in state. Addressing the “brain drain” issue is critical to the financial viability of Pennsylvania. Prior to the commencement of the HOPE Scholarship, only 23 percent of Georgia seniors who scored 1500 or greater on the SAT stayed in the state to attend college. However, since HOPE was initiated, Georgia’s rate of retaining students with SAT scores greater than 1500 has climbed from 23 to 76 percent. Thus, the HOPE scholarship has made significant strides in addressing their own “brain drain” dilemma. REACH takes the HOPE concept a step further to ensure the retention of the most exceptional students in Pennsylvania. REACH does so by implementing a requirement that states each scholar must remain a resident of Pennsylvania for four years after graduation. If a given REACH scholar decides to leave the state, then the REACH scholarship turns into a low interest loan, which would have to be paid back to the REACH Scholarship fund.

3. The cost of attending college for an in-state resident in Pennsylvania is one of the highest in the nation. The cost of tuition is increasing far quicker that the rate of inflation. In a ten year period, from 1987-1997, Pennsylvania college tuitions increased 132%. College has simply become an unaffordable for many families in Pennsylvania. The HOPE Scholarship has been a key factor in keeping college tuitions prices low in Georgia. College tuition has spiked throughout the country at a rate of 41% since the inception of HOPE. Meanwhile, Georgia’s college tuitions have risen only 16%. This is due to the fact that citizens view an increase in state college’s tuition as a tax raise. When citizens correlate tuition hikes with tax hikes, there is little political will to significantly raise tuitions.

4. From 1990 to 2000, Georgia’s population increased by approximately 1.7 million people. Approximately 1 million of the 1.7 million people were under the age of 44. In Pennsylvania, between 1990 and 2000, Pennsylvania’s population increased by approximately 400,000 people. However, during that time period, Pennsylvania’s population less than 44 years of age decreased by approximately 153,000 people. (U.S. Census Bureau). In essence, these statistics exhibit the trend that Pennsylvania’s population is aging, while younger citizens of the commonwealth are moving elsewhere. Meanwhile, Georgia’s younger population increased significantly during this time. This population growth in Georgia has correlated with both job and economic growth. Georgia’s gross state product increased to 66.1 percent from 1993 to 2003, which is nearly 50% greater than the gross domestic product during the same time period. Also, Georgia’s total employment grew 37.5 in this ten year period, which is twice the amount of US employment during this time. Job growth has also resulted in a decrease in poverty rates. Georgia’s share of population living in poverty fell 23 percent since the implementation of the HOPE Scholarship. The “HOPE” scholarship has been and continues to be a key factor in Georgia’s economic success in the last 15 years.

5. The REACH Scholarship will increased college enrollment. In the first 5 years since its inception in 1993, HOPE increased the college enrollment rate (the ratio of first-time freshmen to recent high-school graduates) eight percent higher than the average enrollment rate in other member states of the Southern Regional Educational Board. Additionally, from 1993 to 1999, the amount of student’s who were eligible for HOPE increased from 48% to 65%. REACH would have similar results. Evidence has shown that the implementation of a state-wide, merit-based scholarship will increase college enrollment far greater than the percentage of states that have no such program. Likewise, The REACH Scholarship will increase the percentage of minorities who attend college. The Georgia HOPE Scholarship has helped to increase black college enrollment by 15%, including a 23% increase of enrollment in Historically Black Colleges.


That would disadvantage kids from worse schools/backgrounds. It's better if the criteria judges like against like, right?

(I may be looking at this wrong--I'm no statistician or even logical thinker, really--but that's how it seems like it'd work to me.)

This is a great great idea though, and could really bolster the state school system. If only something could be done about the dizzying rise in private tuition rates.


We talked about this before

You are touching on a really important issue (countrywide, not merely in PA).

But the problem is more institutions of higher education that are letting unprepared people in with statistically very poor chances of graduation because they are guaranteed federal loan money for the (not infrequently more than four years) that the students are there.

I really don't think your problem is people with 3.0 or better cumulative averages across three years of high school, even when the 3.0's are from awful, underperforming schools or schools with bad grade inflation.

The grade requirement, coupled with the attendance rate requirement (which is huge, and shows investment/effort in education) ensure these are kids with some ability who are definitely trying.

And state schools at least (Temple for example) have already recognized that that class of students, even if they are at the cusp of being at risk of not succeeding at college based on poor pre-college preparation, are worth targeting and giving special assistance to bridge the gap and get them adjusted to college. That's why summer bridge and intensive mentoring programs are in place specifically for PA residents who otherwise wouldn't be admitted to Temple. This program would mesh well with that, as would this program's academic probation provisions.



• REACH Scholars must graduate from a certified high school in PA.
• REACH Scholars must be a legal resident of PA for three years prior to graduation.
• REACH Scholars must maintain a “B” or 3.0 average and an 85% attendance rating.
• REACH Scholars must have a satisfactory disciplinary record.
• All merit based criteria are calculated by statistics accumulated during the students’ sophomore, junior, and senior


Standardized tests don't mean squat

They have a very low correlation with success in college, let alone success post graduation. They do make a lot of money for test manufacturers, however, and provide an easy mechanism for colleges to whittle down applicants to match the number of openings.

As poorly as grades function as a criterion for college admission, they are far better than standardized tests.

Your concept of bias is...well... biased

If you want a measure of someone's knowledge, you should use a criterion referenced test, not a standardized test that is norm-referenced. A standardized test, for the most part, tells you how well a particular testee did on a particular test on a particular day in comparison to other testees, and not a whole lot else.

Again, standardized test scores correlate poorly with success in college.

Grades, on the other hand, for all their imperfections - including those you mention - (I am definitely not going to defend grading systems on the whole), are in aggregate more reflective of students' ability to perform in a similar academic environment.

The SAT I is designed to predict first-year college grades - it is not validated to predict grades beyond the freshman year, graduation rates, pursuit of a graduate degree, or for placement or advising purposes. However, according to research done by the tests' manufacturers, class rank and/or high school grades are still both better predictors of college performance than the SAT I....Thus, the predictive ability (or r squared) of the SAT I is just .22, meaning the test explains only 22% of the variation in freshman grades. With a correlation of .54, high school grades alone do a better job, explaining almost 30% of the variance in first-year college performance.

And that doesn't even speak to the bias reflected in differences in how ethnic groups perform on standardized tests.

Not to mention the fact that access to test prep programs is easier for some than others. Not to mention the fact that standardized tests are causing teachers to focus on "teaching to the test."

Really, you don't want to get me started on this issue (and yes, I'm only getting started).

More bias?

It seems inherent in your comments above that you think that "grade inflation" is more relevant in Point Breeze than in Lower Merion. I can tell you that folks at some well-reputed Main Line colleges talk about the trend of grade inflation quite a bit.

But I don't think it is unreasonable to, before handing out thousands of dollars, expect some score that would be equivalent to at least a 10th grade reading level and solid algebra skills.

Then use a criterion-referenced test, and not a norm-referenced test such as the SAT I.

The point is that a grade average (as well as class rank, class attendence) tell a lot more about a student's past performance in high school, and consequently their potential for achivement on similar tasks in college, than a measure of a singular performance on some abstracted task that has relatively little to do with what it means to do well in college. If college consisted of nothing more than taking tests, then standardized testing would have more relevance.

I'm repeating myself, but a score on a standardized test tells an evaluator very little about a student's potential to achieve in an academic environment. A grade point average, while certainly not highly informative, gives you more relevant info than a standardized test. Further the demographics of standardized test scores only effectively raises the bar even higher for those who need the most help with attaining a college degree.

This is getting extemely repetitive

So I'll make just one more attempt:

I was arguing your stance that grades are a good indicator of knowledge."

Actually, I never said that grades are a good indicator of knowledge. I only said that grades are a better indicator of how students will do in college than SAT scores - for the reason that they are a closer measure of the kinds of skills and tasks students will do in college.

But neither grades nor SATs are much of a test of knowledge. If you want to test someone's knowledge, criterion-referenced tests (not norm-refrenced tests) are one useful tool, but the problem is that they provide a very limited data set and unfortunately, are used as a substitute for a more comprehensive data set because they have an appearance (mistakenly) of objectivity.

The problem is that when people realize that evaluating students is a very complicated task, instead of doing so comprehensively, pick something easy to measure and measure that instead. This is not specific to education - it's a widespread phenomenon in business also. Can't measure what you're intending to measure (which the "validity" figure I cited above proves the SATs don't do for educational achievement, and I would add don't do for "knowledge" either)? Well, then, measure what you can measure and then pretend it measures what you are intending to measure. Again, look at the validity numbers for SATs. VAlidity numbers for tests indicate how well they measure what they intend to measure (of course, on top of validity, you have to factor in reliability - which measures, for example, how likely a student is to get the same score taking the test multiple times. I don't know the exact reliabiity numbers for SATs - but any number lower than 100% lowers the rationale behind using them as a criterion).

Someone getting a B in remedial English at Point Breeze is not as literate as someone that gets a B in honors English at Conestoga.

Perhaps true. On the other hand, someone who goes to an excellent high school with all kinds of support services, and whose parents enroll them in expensive SAT prep courses, and who has good natural ability, but in reality is an unmotivated student or doesn't apply him/herself and has an negative attitude about their schooling, is less likely to do well in a college environment than someone who overcame great obstacles to get good grades, applies themselves very dilligently, has a positive attitude about their education, but whose brother was shot the day before they took the SAT and who lacked access to the kinds of resources that would help them to do well on a norm-referenced test that doesn't differentiate the factor that outside forces played in their test performance

And grade inflation is my concern across the system, just most likely more prevalent in poorer neighborhoods where it will be justified as a way to get the kid into college for free, until he fails out because he wasn't properly educated and prepared.

Do you have any evidence of that? I'd say that "grade inflation" is equally probable in communities where there's so much more pressure to get into a good school. Again, grade inflation is considered to be a big problem even at the most elite of schools, so I have no idea what you're basing your analysis on.

If students are getting Bs in their classes, then they have to be doing well on tests already, right?

Perhaps true. On the other hand, someone may get a good grade even if they tend to do poorly on tests, if their test-taking performances aren't really reflective of their actual knowledge of math, or of their learning potential.

You can be the best damn test taker in the world, but if you don't know algebra, you probably aren't going to score too high on the math part.

Perhaps true. On the other hand, you can be a student who is very good at math, or who has the potential to do very good at math, and do poory on the SAT every time you take it, or certainly do poorly on one particular occassion when you take it.

Ain't that the truth

The SAT primarily measures how well you can do on the SAT.


SAT Issue

I think the points about whether to include the SAT or not are sound on both sides. The reason we decided not to use the SAT scores came down to not wanting to punish students for the incompetence of a particular school district. Example.

- Sally got to school everyday.
- Sally maintains a 3.0 GPA.
- Sally goes to a school that offers no SAT prep.
- The first time Sally see or looks or any aspect of the SAT is the morning she takes the test.

*Although Sally ’s school did a poor job of preparing Sally for the SAT, it is not reasonable to believe that this student, who maintains a 3.0 and attends school regularly, would strive once she has been put into an atmosphere which is conducive to learning?

Excellent point

And this is really the crux of the issue related to the SAT. In many suburban school districts, SAT prep is a part of the curriculum. In Philadelphia and other Pennsylvania cities that is not the case.

There is no way to get a perfect set of indicators in this program. So, we would have to work with what we have. GPA and attendance are decent indicators of college performance.

Which institutions are included?

The quote specifies "REACH scholars will receive funding for tuition and fees at all state universities." Does this include simply the State University system (aka the former State Teachers Colleges, like West Chester, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, etc.), or does it also include state-affiliated universities like Penn State and Temple? I presume that it does not include private universities.


I don't know the answer to the first part

But the scholarship amount (based on state school tuition rates) could be used to offset tuition/fees at private schools, according to the criteria quoted.


Addressing the brain drain

While the notion of universally-available college education is an admirable one, I don't think it will address the real brain drain in PA, since that involves college graduates. In other words, they go to college at Penn, Temple, Villanova, etc., but then move out after graduation, taking their tax money with them.

The real challenge is to make PA a more attractive place for young adults to start their careers. While making it an easier place to get a college education is a good idea, it really won't address that problem.


I'm speaking way outside of expertise

But I think making the state school system more attractive affects the rate of graduates leaving in a couple ways. There's that explicit residency requirement. But people do think about the quality of a state school system as a factor when they think about where to settle, if the school system is good enough. I know plenty of people who have moved to Florida, California, Indiana to establish residency or to have children so they could take advantage of a decent state school system or one with good scholarships/rates as an alternative to the crazy-high tuition at good private schools.


Yeah that would not help Phila specifically,

just maybe PA generally.


How's This Going to Be Paid For?

Overall, a good idea but I suspect this is a $100 million + Pa. program. With the state chronically short of funds in most policy areas, how is it going to be funded? Pennsylvania should be spending about $500 million more on the public school system as we probably have the worst school system in the North East. I agree with the above comment that there needs to be a SAT component to guard against school grade inflation.

Well, I guess we can just emulate Macau

HOPE is funded entirely by The Georgia Lottery for Education, which also funds Georgia's statewide prekindergarten program.

I'd like to see some lighter

I'd like to see some lighter grade requirements, in particular for those who tackle a subject like engineering where getting a 3.0 GPA is difficult. Otherwise, an unintended consequence of the legislation will be to encourage people to study social sciences and while I loved my liberal arts undergrad, we need more people studying science subjects.

I also like the fact that since there is funding at the end of the tunnel, it provides more incentive for H.S. students and parents to perform better in school, i.e. monitoring student behavior and doing homework, etc.

While we, and certainly the

While we, and certainly the legislators will, squabble about the details of the scholarship requirements, there is no denying that this is an important and enlightened proposal. Aside from problems such as brain drain, Philadelphia has a high school drop-out rate over approximately 50%. While this scholarship will not alone attack that barrier, any reason for low-income students to stay in school is welcomed. When talking with Philly highschoolers recently, they reported that a large reason for dropping out was hopelessness: higher education has become so expensive, that even if they finished out their diploma, they know they couldn't fund further study. Educators, legislators, parents and communities urgently need to provide these students with as many authentic and achievable incentives for staying in school as we can. While the details may be negotiated, this is at base a sound proposal to invest in human capital, and beyond that, in justice and equality of opportunity. Nice job Payton.

Everyone should read the

Everyone should read the reach scholarship memo thoroughly.

Azion, if you look a little deeper, you would see that the memo says that students will have to stay in pa for four years after their college graduation

Raideradam, read #1 of the reasons we need the hope scholarship part. Ill copy & paste.

The REACH Scholarship will increase academic performance across the board in PA high schools. A study in 2004 of Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship showed that students who maintained a 3.0 and 80% attendance (GA standards) increased 50% in the first six years of the program. Georgia College freshmen also have increased SAT scores by 60 points during the tenure of the HOPE scholarship, whereas the nation average increased by merely 20 points during this time.

GA’s SATs scores were triple that of the national average. Also, what you guys are forgetting is that these students’s are going to have to apply to these schools anyways. It’s not like they are waltzing into college without taking standardized tests...By the looks of it, you could potentially be a reach scholar who has to attend community college because of low SAT scores.

Kids that attend public schools in Philadelphia, and all schools for that matter, need incentives. If there is sound funding, I think its great legislation.


Very good point. At the end of the day, these kids still have to get into college. I think the requirements on the scholarship, which get rid of the most clearly biased part of general admission criteria (the SAT), and favor course work and attendance, plus actually getting into a school, are generally good.

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