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June 01, 2021

Hundreds are attending Community College of Philadelphia tuition-free thanks to the Octavius Catto Scholarship

Education Scholarships

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A little over a year ago, Mayor Jim Kenney announced his vision to make Community College of Philadelphia free for countless Philadelphians. This vision is now known as the Octavius Catto Scholarship – the result of a partnership between the College and the City of Philadelphia.

Catto Scholars are first-time, full-time College students who receive last-dollar funding to cover tuition and fees, as well as up to $1,500 per semester for food, books, transportation and other costs. Earlier this month, more than 130 Catto Scholars wrapped up their first semester of classes.

“Within my first few weeks at CCP, I was able to receive my monthly stipend and extra support services,” said Chelsea Hammond, a Catto Scholar. “I love that the scholarship helps support me so that I can spend more time focusing on my studies instead of worrying about how much is in my bank account.”

Scholarship benefits

In addition to financial support, Catto Scholars receive wraparound services to ensure student success. These services include enhanced academic success and career coaching, and specialized workshops and programming, as well as connections to vital resources such as housing assistance and child care.

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Each Scholar is paired with a Catto Success Coach who works with them one-on-one to assess their needs and provide support to facilitate academic and personal success. Coaches serve as a bridge connecting scholars with College departments for academic advising, career development resources and even four-year transfer opportunities.

They ultimately work to ensure the retention and on-time graduation for each Catto Scholar.

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Chelsea Hammond

“At first, I knew that I would be getting extra financial assistance, but I did not know much more about all the opportunities that I would soon be presented,” said Hammond. “I met with my success coach, who set me up with services based on my needs, both personal and education related. It is nice having someone in your corner to turn to when you are just starting school, especially when we are completely virtual at this time.”

The Octavius Catto Scholarship was designed for students like Hammond who need additional support to ensure they succeed. The scholarship seeks to uplift our most vulnerable residents by providing equitable access to a high-quality college education.

Student eligibility

Best of all, students do not need to apply for the scholarship. Once they apply to the College and complete their FAFSA application, they will be contacted by the Catto Scholarship team if they are eligible.

“After first applying to CCP, I was notified that I was eligible for the scholarship,” said Hammond.

She adds the scholarship came after some difficult personal experiences, including emotional issues in childhood, drug usage and homelessness.

“After many years of hard work, I finally was able to afford my own apartment,” Hammond said. “I had worked at a handful of places over the years and found sales rewarding. The downside was that I could not find anywhere willing to pay me more than $12 an hour, which barely covered my bills. I knew that if I went back to school, I could do something that I really loved, make more money, and find a job that was more reliable.”

Hammond is now on the path to pursuing a career as a paralegal and is enrolled in the Paralegal Studies program at the College. She simply wants to help others and hopes to one day be able to connect people in need with the resources to help them succeed.

Additional information on the Octavius Catto Scholarship, including the full eligibility requirements, can be found online at