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The free tuition program offered to disadvantaged students at Gateway Technical College will be part of the conversation during a press conference call Monday with the White House ahead of Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden’s visit to a community college in Pennsylvania. The point of both the call and the visit is to call attention to the Obama Administration’s on-going efforts to make college more affordable.

An email from Gateway Sunday highlighted the participation of SC Johnson Chairman Fisk Johnson and GTC board member Pamela Zenner Richards and included information from the Office of the Press Secretary.

“… highlight the progress made in launching free community college programs across the country and announce new investments to better connect Americans to in-demand jobs,” the description from the White House reads.

The Gateway Promise provides free tuition to low-income students starting in the fall 2017 and hopes to increase enrollment in the technical college system by targeting high school seniors with the hope of getting them into the workforce quicker and increasing their wages by accessing higher paying jobs sooner.

The America’s College Promise Act is a federal-state partnership awards grants to states that waive community resident tuition and fees for students. Low-income students can qualify for grants through the federal government, which will pay for about 75 percent of the cost to attend community college.

The Gateway Promise plans to fund the remaining amount through an endowment fund through the Gateway Technical College Foundation, which hopes to raise a total of $3 million to help fund the scholarships. But the group has already raised $1.5 million from area businesses. Of the $1.5 million raised, SC Johnson and Fisk Johnson donated $700,000.

Students will also receive mentoring support as part of the program.

The Gateway Promise program is available to all current high school juniors attending schools in Racine, Kenosha, and Walworth counties that are eligible to attend college through the federal financial aid program. Through the Gateway Promise program, students can enroll in one or two-year programs at Gateway Technical College. Starting with high school students that graduate in June 2017, those who qualify will be able to school in the fall for free.

Students are required to have a composite score of 16 on the ACT, have at least a 2.0 GPA by the end of their junior year in high school, apply to Gateway Technical College by Feb. 1 of their senior year, and enroll as a full-time student in the fall immediately following graduation. If students qualify, they will receive funding for program tuition and fees for six semesters of enrollment.

Once accepted, students must maintain a 2.0 GPA while in school, take part in student engagement and attend career planning workshops.