These 10 Tuition-Free “College Promise” Programs Are Changing Our Country’s Future

Cleveland County Promise (Cleveland County, NC)

Upstateherd, Webbly (O. Max Garner House) – Shelby, NC, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Cleveland County Promise is a nonprofit organization founded by back-to-back Superbowl champion Willie Aaron Green.

With the aid of private donors and minimum public funding, the Promise program prepares young adults to become productive citizens.

The promise program provides a quality education and a safe learning environment where students feel respected, challenged, and accountable as they strive to meet the demands of adulthood.

The Cleveland Promise provides all graduates of any Cleveland County High School with a scholarship covering tuition and any mandatory fees, that can be used at any accredited two or four-year, public or private college or university in any part of the United States.

The primary goal of the program is to address education imbalances in the Cleveland County Community by expanding access to educational support, improving test scores, increasing parent involvement, and decreasing the dropout rate.

The program is also designed to have a significant positive economic impact by encouraging businesses to locate in Cleveland county.

By establishing relationships with private and public companies, “The Promise” program promotes the growth of business ownership, increase employment and job creation, encourages business development, and promotes home ownership.

The resources and support provided by the Cleveland County Promise Centers are key to the success of The Cleveland County Promise program.

These post-secondary resource centers serve as a hub for students to achieve success during and beyond high school.

All students graduating from a Cleveland County, North Carolina High School (Public, Private, Home School or Charter) are eligible for The Promise Scholarship. For more information about eligibility and award distribution, visit

Pittsburgh Promise (Pittsburgh, PA)

In 2007, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center announced a $100 million commitment to support students graduating from Pittsburgh Public Schools advance their education after high school. Developed by the city of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Public Schools, The Pittsburgh Promise is designed to give graduates of Pittsburgh’s public high schools the means to pursue postsecondary education, regardless of family income, at one of the many accredited postsecondary institution throughout Pennsylvania.

The goals of the Pittsburgh Promise include promoting high educational aspirations among urban youth, funding scholarships for post-secondary access, and fueling a prepared and diverse regional workforce. The ultimate goal of The Pittsburgh Promise is to give every graduating high school student in Pittsburg a scholarship to higher education. The program has offered scholarships to more than 4,600 students so far. Impressively, the retention rates of Pittsburgh public school graduates in postsecondary education are now approximately 100 percent higher than they were before The Promise was established, according to UPMC.

Here’s how the Pittsburg Promise impacted the community:

  • Graduation rate from Pittsburgh Public Schools increased from 63% in 2005 to 80% in 2016
  • 78% of Promise Scholars are meeting or exceeding national statistics of persistence and retention
  • Nearly 3000 scholarship recipients have graduated from nearly 150 different post-secondary institutions.
  • The Pittsburgh Promise has raised over $265 million dollar through fundraising.

The Pittsburgh Promise is a “last dollar” scholarship, meaning the scholarship pays for eligible expenses after all other scholarships, grants, and institutional grants have been deducted. For more information about eligibility and distribution, visit

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