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Innovative program boosts college attendance in District 2 graduates

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Officials at Harrison School District Two say an innovative program is boosting college attendance and success rates.

The Dakota Promise program began at District 2 in the fall of 2020 as a partnership between Pikes Peak Community College, D2, and the Atlas Prep and James Irwin Charter Schools. The program, funded by the Dakota Foundation and the Legacy Institute, offers every qualified high school graduate in the district free college tuition and a support coach.

Nearly 400 new and continuing students are enrolled in the Dakota Promise Scholars program. Within the first year, district officials say Dakota helped boost D2 enrollment at PPCC from 96 up to 143 students, a 49% increase.

“Partnering with PPCC through the Dakota Promise program makes college an option for all of our students," said Harrison School District Superintendent Wendy Birhanzel.  "We know the financial barrier often prohibits students from exploring the option of a college degree or trade certificate straight out of high school. This is one of the best gifts we can give our graduates." 

Officials say D2 was chosen as a partner for the Dakota Promise program "because of its highly under-served, diverse, population, and long standing partnership with PPCC."

“Dakota Promise has given me a lot of opportunities, not only for college but in life overall," said Dakota student Alissa Martinez-Watts. "Due to Dakota Promise, I have been given the opportunity to work towards my goals of becoming a psychologist and having the future I always dreamed of. This scholarship has opened many doors for me, such as more scholarship opportunities, jobs, financial help, mental health help, tutoring, continuing my education further, and many other useful resources.”

To be eligible for the program, students must:

  • Have a minimum of a 2.2. cumulative (or junior and senior) weighted GPA
  • Enroll at PPCC within 16 months of graduation
  • Enroll and complete a minimum of 24 credit hours per academic eyar
  • Apply for financial aid per academic year

The program pays the difference between grants a student receives from financial aid, and in-class tuition and fees and books.

For more information on the Dakota Promise, click here.

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Shelby Filangi

Shelby is a digital content producer for You can learn more about Shelby here.

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