Philadelphia’s soon-graduating high school seniors may be able to attend college tuition free this fall, thanks to a scholarship program to one of the city’s largest higher education institutions.

The Community College of Philadelphia has announced the return of its 50th Anniversary Scholars Program, which no cost for tuition and fees for low-income, qualified students.

“We cannot afford to not offer this program,” said Dr. Donald Guy Generals, president of the college. “A moral imperative lies at the heart of our reasoning: Too many students are unable to afford the full cost of a college education. College records indicate that thousands of students walk away from the college each year because of their inability to meet the financial gap remaining after financial aid is applied.”

Dr. Generals introduced the scholarship in 2015, and said the college enrolled 217 students into the program that year. To receive the 50th Anniversary Scholarship, high school seniors must apply to Community College of Philadelphia; complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by June 1; and be deemed eligible to receive a Pell grant.

Scholarship recipients must be enrolled full-time, participate in student success support programs at the College, participate in at least one extracurricular activity, maintain a minimum GPA and meet with an advisor at least once per semester.

“Our goal was to provide an opportunity to all Philadelphia high school graduates who were willing to commit to their education by enrolling as full-time students and maintaining a 2.5 [grade point] average,” Dr. Generals added.

Tuition and fees at Community College of Philadelphia total about $5,500 a year ― anywhere from one-quarter to one-tenth the price of public and private four-year colleges. The 50th Anniversary Scholars Program offsets the remaining tuition for up to three years or until the student obtains their associate’s degree.

Community College of Philadelphia follows a growing national trend among community colleges to offer free or significantly reduced college tuition, after President Obama announced a joint state and federal effort to make a two-year education free at any community college in the country.

With convenient locations throughout the area, and its main campus mere blocks from Center City, Community College of Philadelphia is truly the ‘City’s College.’ Dozens of programs and degree offerings prepare students for careers in in-demand fields like technology, health care, public service and a variety of technical trades. Two-year programs for associate’s degrees allow graduates to pursue further degrees at four-year colleges or enter the job market with greater experience and confidence.

“The College was founded during an era of expanding opportunity,” Generals said. “The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, and the Voting Rights Act was signed into law just about a month before our college opened its doors. Fifty years later, the Community College of Philadelphia Foundation Board, which is committed to raising funds to support the scholarships, is expanding opportunity in a meaningful way for a new generation of Philadelphians.”

Essence Durant, a freshman at Community College of Philadelphia, said she was unsure how she would handle college debt until she was awarded the scholarship.

“I thought I was going to have to take out loans to pay for everything, because I wasn’t going to be able to pay for everything,” said Durant, who plans to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. "This scholarship has motivated me to keep my grades up so I can be considered for more academic scholarships in the future."

Freshman Daniel Henderson, of Germantown, said he's on a mission to study business and transfer to Shippensburg University. Currently he takes a full load of classes at Community College of Philadelphia and works part-time at a Starbucks.

"My mom had lost her job just when I found out I received the scholarship," Henderson said. "It was a big relief because it helped ease some of the pressure off of her."

Students interested in the 50th Anniversary Scholars Program can visit www.ccp.edu/scholarships or call the scholarship hotline at 215.496.6182.