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CU Boulder Doubles Size Of CU Promise Free Tuition And Fees Program

CU Boulder Doubles Size Of CU Promise Free Tuition And Fees Program; Students sitting in lawn front of building

Fundraising will supplement program, help offset other costs for Colorado residents with most financial need

CU Boulder has announced a major expansion of its CU Promise program, doubling the number of Colorado resident students with significant financial need who are eligible for free tuition and fees for the 2023–24 academic year. 

CU Boulder is also leveraging the expansion to highlight its need-based financial aid fund, which enables donors to supplement CU Promise aid for in-state students with the greatest financial need by helping to offset other costs such as books and living expenses so they can graduate either debt-free or with lower debt. 

CU Promise covers tuition and fees for all Colorado resident students who are eligible for the Pell Grant—estimated to be about 3,500 students for the 2023–24 academic year. CU Boulder is removing a number of barriers that will increase access to CU Promise for incoming students and transfer students, as well as continuing students who may not have been eligible for the program in the past.  

Eligibility criteria for CU Promise for 2023–24 include:

  • Colorado resident
  • U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Federal Pell Grant eligible (or eligible ASSET student with high financial need)
    • Note: Families who are eligible typically have an adjusted gross income of $65,000 or less.
  • Admitted into or enrolled in an undergraduate degree program
  • Working on first bachelor’s degree

Key changes to the CU Promise program to help expand eligibility include:

  • Transfer student eligibility is no longer restricted to students transferring from Colorado community colleges and other CU campuses.
  • CU Promise students are no longer removed from the program for dropping below full-time enrollment status or for taking semesters off. 
  • Prospective students will no longer have to meet an application and verification deadline that is earlier than the date for other grant programs.

“As a first-generation college student, I know how impactful financial support like this can be,” CU Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said. “CU Boulder is committed to addressing the cost of attaining a college degree and increasing access to higher education through CU Promise. The expansion of this program will help us attract and retain in-state students who might not otherwise see higher education as an option.”

The expansion of the program is feasible thanks in part to the passage of Senate Bill 96, which Gov. Jared Polis signed into law on April 11. The bill helps CU Boulder increase the impact of both merit scholarships (Esteemed Scholars) and need-based grants (CU Promise) for Colorado resident students.

“Keeping our best and brightest students in the state is vital to the success of Colorado,” said Judy Amabile, a state representative from Boulder who co-sponsored the legislation with fellow Democrat Dylan Roberts and Republicans Paul Lundeen and Matt Soper. “This bill helps achieve that by making our research institutions like CU Boulder more accessible and attractive when recruiting in-state high school students.” 

In addition to the tuition and fees benefit of CU Promise, students who have Expected Family Contribution of 0 as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will qualify for an additional $5,000 grant. Students must complete the FAFSA each year to determine eligibility for the CU Promise program.

For decades, donors have been contributing to the university’s need-based financial aid fund to supplement campus aid for students with the most need to increase their access to the state’s flagship university. 

“Many alumni and donors have expressed interest in how they can directly support students in need,” CU Boulder Vice Chancellor for Advancement Katy Herbert Kotlarczyk said. “We recognize that tuition and fees are only part of a student’s cost of attending, and the fund provides a channel for donors to help bridge that gap for students. This includes increasing access to higher ed for first-generation and students of color, who often represent a significant portion of the Pell-eligible population in our state.”

The College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) has already provided a shining example of the impact donors can have in meeting this need. Dean Keith Molenaar announced that CEAS donors have contributed enough to ensure first-generation, Pell-eligible Colorado resident engineering students for the incoming fall 2023 cohort will have their full financial need covered through a combination of CU Promise grants and private donations. CEAS continues to raise funds in an effort to provide this benefit for future incoming classes.

“We want to ensure that all first-generation, Pell-eligible students from the state of Colorado can attain a CU Boulder engineering education—and do it debt-free,” Molenaar said. “I am inspired by the commitment by our university, our donors and our CEAS community to make this happen. As a first-generation college student myself, and as a CU Boulder engineering alumnus, I’m passionate about the impact we can have through this program and proud to see our campus leading the way.”

“Removing these barriers helps us reach more students with crucial financial aid,” DiStefano said. “It also ensures the support continues once they’re on campus so that they’re able to persist and attain a degree that will set them up for success throughout their lives and careers.”

This story was originally published by the University of Colorado on April 18, 2023.