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Press Release for Monday, March 24, 2008

Program Makes College Affordable for Low-Income Families

Joanna Norris, UNF, 620-2102

The presidents of the University of North Florida (UNF), Jacksonville University (JU), Edward Waters College (EWC) and Florida Community College at Jacksonville (FCCJ) joined today Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton, Duval County School Board Chair Betty Burney and Nat Glover, who has been serving as an ambassador to higher education in Jacksonville, to announce a major scholarship program that makes a college education affordable and obtainable to Duval County Public School students from low-income families.

Beginning in the fall of 2008, The Jacksonville Commitment will provide the financial support necessary to obtain a college education to public high school students with limited family income. The pool will consist of students who qualify for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program and reside in Duval County. The students with the most need will become Commitment Scholars first. Over time, more students will be accepted as Commitment Scholars.

UNF, JU and EWC are guaranteeing the entire cost of a four-year degree, including tuition, books, meals and housing for those students who choose to live on campus. FCCJ is guaranteeing the cost of a two-year degree and books, with the student then transferring to UNF, JU or EWC to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

“If Jacksonville is going to prosper, we must ensure that our citizens are well educated,” said Glover. “Too many high school students don’t think a college degree is possible because of the cost. The Jacksonville Commitment is our way of eliminating the cost barrier. This program is an alternative to poverty and an anti-crime measure.” In 2006, UNF hired Glover, the former sheriff, as a special advisor to work with students, administrators, the School Board and area colleges to reduce the drop-out rate and encourage youth to seek higher education.

Approximately 9,000 Duval County students in the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grades financially qualify for The Jacksonville Commitment; however, the students still must meet the admission’s standards of the institution they wish to enter.

The City of Jacksonville is providing the initial funding for this scholarship program and Mayor Peyton is pledging $1 million for The Jacksonville Commitment in the next fiscal year. The four local colleges are raising private support to compliment the city’s funding as the program grows.

“This is the best possible investment for a strong Jacksonville,” said Peyton. “An educated workforce ensures a robust economy. We want to raise the per capita income in Jacksonville and this is a great way to achieve that goal.”

UNF, EWC, JU and FCCJ are also helping to fund the program through existing scholarships and will be building their endowments for perpetual funding for the program.

“The Jacksonville Commitment has the potential to dramatically change our community,” said UNF President John A. Delaney. “No longer will young people from low-income families have to choose between going to college and supporting themselves.”

“We are committed to making Jacksonville well educated,” said FCCJ President Steven Wallace, who also serves as the immediate past chair of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. “By working together we are sending a message to high school students: college is obtainable.”

“For 140 years, Edward Waters College has diligently fought to create empowerment for our community, one student at a time. That is why we support the Jacksonville Commitment,” said Claudette H. Williams, president of EWC. “This new initiative will not only equip underserved students with unlimited educational opportunities, but it will also serve as a beacon of hope for many young women and men who otherwise might not pursue a higher education.”

“As a partner in the community, Jacksonville University is committed to assisting youth to empower themselves through education,” said Kerry D. Romesburg, president of JU. “The future prosperity of the community hinges on our commitment to education and setting high expectations for our students.”

“All students, regardless of their economic status, should be propelled forward in academic achievement,” said Betty Burney, chair of the Duval County School Board. “The Jacksonville Commitment affords students the opportunity to reach their goals with higher education.”

To find out more about the new scholarship program, go to