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Program for two CNY high schools offers free community college tuition

Onondaga Community College
Onondaga Community College

Onondaga Community College is rolling out a program that will offer free tuition to students in two central New York school districts.

The OCC Advantage  is based on a similar program at Harper College near Chicago, according to OCC’s Amy Kremenek.

“I’m not aware of others around the country,” Kremenek says, "Harper was our inspiration.”

Students enter the program in their freshman year and meet certain benchmarks for grades, attendance and community service. Once they’re met, they go to OCC tuition free.  That’s the incentive, according to Kremenek.

"Students are required to file for state and federal financial aid. But what we would not require is that students to take out students loans. And that’s one of the biggest concerns of families, is ‘how much loan debt am I going to have to take out?’ Through this program there will be no loan debt,” Kremenek says.

The program is generating enthusiasm, especially among parents.

"I have had families talk to me about their concerns especially about the financial piece of the college education," Kremenek says. "Telling me perhaps this is their oldest child as a freshman, that they have two or three children behind them

OCC has started raising money for the program through a scholarship foundation.  It’s being offered to freshmen in the Solvay and East Syracuse-Minoa School Districts.