Providing a head start to higher education

Three students enjoying club rush
The Promise Program offers great opportunities to many deserving students on the Treasure Coast. JAMES CROCCO © INDIAN RIVER STATE COLLEGE

Not every high school graduate needs to go to college.

But every high school graduate should have the option to attend college.

Thanks to Indian River State College’s Promise Program, most area high school graduates can attend their first two years of college free of tuition.

As Donna Crary writes in Class Act beginning one Page 44, the two-year-old Promise Program has no GPA or financial need requirements. Students need only to have graduated from public schools, public charter schools or in-district home schools in the four-county area served by the college. 

The Promise Program, begun in 2022, is funded mostly through the Indian River State College Foundation Inc., the fundraising arm of the college. The free tuition option enables recent high school graduates to explore career possibilities and continue their education beyond their associate’s degree without having to mortgage their futures.

I know of what I write. Back in the dark ages before I left for college out of Florida, I secured a student loan from what was then known as Sun Bank in downtown Fort Pierce. The loan renewed every year until my senior year. 

Then reality soon set in.

After graduation, I came back to Fort Pierce to work as a reporter at the local News-Tribune. Nine months after my return, my Sun Bank loan officer, the very gracious Betty Lane Hockett, wrote me a nice letter to let me know how much she was enjoying my articles. And, by the way, she reminded me in the letter, my nine-month grace period for repaying my loan had ended and would I please start making the payments.

I think the loan lasted 10 years, and I was never so happy to have gotten rid of a debt as when I paid it off. I don’t regret the education I received with the loan. I probably could not have gone away to school without it. But paying it off made my start in the real world a lot more difficult.

The sad reality is that most people cannot afford to finance their children’s college educations. Costs have gotten too out of hand. As college charges climb ever higher, so do student loan limits, increasing a student’s borrowing capacity but also placing a heavier burden on them into the future.

Which brings me to my original point. 

While attending college is a great ideal, a four-year degree isn’t for everyone. The Promise Program gives students an opportunity to decide whether to pursue additional college after their two-year program or to attend one of the college’s many training programs. Interestingly, since the Promise Program launched, enrollment at Indian River State College jumped from 23 percent of high school graduates to 42 percent.

In my chosen field, journalism, most of the skills required are technical and can be mastered through repetition — writing, learning style, putting stories together, editing, designing a page. I’ve often said that one of the most useful classes for my journalism career was a Typing 101 summer course I took at Indian River State College.

A college degree is not required to be a journalist, and some of the best journalists I’ve known didn’t have a bachelor’s degree, including a Pulitzer Prize winner I worked with at the newspaper now known as the Tampa Bay Times. 

An education after high school should be available to all, though it doesn’t have to come in the same form or with the same expectation for everybody. IRSC’s innovative program helps fulfill that promise.





Gregory Enns
Reach Gregory Enns or 772.940.9005.

See the original article in print publication

Feb. 27, 2024


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