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November 10, 2020

New scholarship will make tuition free for hundreds of students at Community College in Philadelphia

Education Scholarships

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Limited - Community College of Philadelphia Community College of Philadelphia/for PhillyVoice

Thanks to the Octavius Catto Scholarship, eligible students will be able to attend Community College of Philadelphia tuition-free starting this spring.

New, first-time college students may be eligible to receive this scholarship that would make tuition free for hundreds of students at Community College in Philadelphia. The scholarship is designed to address many of the obstacles faced by students who are living in poverty, and will also provide eligible students with funding for basic needs including food and books.

The previously announced Octavius Catto Scholarship is the result of a partnership between the College and the City of Philadelphia, and will ultimately benefit 4,500 students over five years. It combines a “last-dollar” funding model, covering the outstanding tuition balance after all other federal and state scholarships and grants are applied, with wraparound support services to improve student success.

“We know that education can transform lives, and that having a postsecondary credential is increasingly important for students to find family-sustaining employment,” said College President Dr. Donald Guy Generals. “But we also recognize that many of our students face challenges that prevent them from graduating or reaching their educational goals, ranging from transportation and child care issues to food, housing and financial insecurity. We are proud to be able to join with the City to offer this opportunity to our students, who make up a large part of Philadelphia’s workforce and are integral to the City’s success.”

In addition to receiving tuition free for up to three years, Catto Scholars will receive up to $1,500 per semester for food, books and other costs; support from a team of academic advisors, coaches, navigators and other staff members dedicated to ensuring students stay on track; and connection to City services, such as benefits access, quality child care and housing supports.

“The Catto Scholarship is part of our continued commitment to expand quality education for all,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “As we look to recover from this unprecedented pandemic, we are equitably ensuring that all Philadelphians have the educational opportunities to secure quality jobs. The Catto Scholarship includes the supports students need to gain credentials and be ready to enter the workforce quickly or transfer to a four-year institution. Not only will this initiative help lift more Philadelphians out of poverty, it will also drive inclusive economic growth in our city.”

To be eligible for the Octavius Catto Scholarship, new, first-time Community College of Philadelphia students must:

• Be a Philadelphia resident for at least 12 months;
• Have a high school diploma, Commonwealth Diploma or GED from:
          • Any high school located in Philadelphia (public, charter, private, or parochial);
          • Pennsylvania state cyber charter; or
          • Home school;
• Attend Community College of Philadelphia full-time (12+ credits per term);
• Complete the FAFSA each year and document an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) below $8,000; and
• Enter college-ready or one level below college-ready.

In addition, the College will make accommodations for undocumented students who wish to apply.

To remain eligible, students must maintain full-time enrollment (at least 12 credits per semester) and a 2.0 GPA at the end of each year. They must also complete annual FAFSA documentation. As they proceed throughout their College experience, students will continue to meet milestones of credit attainment (20 credits in year one; 42 by the end of year two) and maintain Philadelphia residency.

The scholarship is named after Octavius Catto, an educator and civil rights activist who lived in Philadelphia. As a free Black man during the Civil War, he served as a solider in the Union Army in one of the first volunteer companies in Pennsylvania. Catto was shot and killed on Election Day in 1871 at the age of 32 by a white man who was committing violence and intimidating voters in Black neighborhoods like Catto’s.

More information can be found online at