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PPCC's free tuition for Harrison District high school grads is making an impact

Colorado Springs –September 17, 2021 –  One year in, the Dakota Promise program is boosting college attendance and success rates for Harrison School District 2 graduates. 

This kind of success during such a tremendously trying time speaks loudly to how effective Dakota is at leveling the educational playing field in our region.

Dakota started in the fall of 2020 as a partnership between PPCC and District 2 as well as Atlas Prep and James Irwin Charter Schools, funded by the Dakota Foundation and the Legacy Institute, offering every qualified high school graduate in the district free college tuition and support coach.

Since its inception, nearly 400 new and continuing students are enrolled in the Dakota Promise Scholars program.

In its first year, Dakota has helped boost D2 enrollment at PPCC from 96 students to 143 students, a 49% increase. 

PPCC plays a pivotal role in the success of this program by providing students with intensive support from professional student success coaches, which includes financial, personal, food, transportation and academic support. 

Research has shown that this kind of financial and academic support will help more low-income, first-generation students find successful careers. It may also affect high school student dropout rates when students can see that a college education can be a reality.

"It's so exciting for us to already see the kind of difference we're making for the Dakota students," said PPCC President Lance Bolton. 

“Dakota Promise has given me a lot of opportunities, not only for college, but in life overall," said Dakota student Alissa Martinez-Watts. "Due to Dakota Promise, I have been given the opportunity to work towards my goals of becoming a psychologist and having the future I always dreamed of. This scholarship has opened many doors for me, such as more scholarship opportunities, jobs, financial help, mental health help, tutoring, continuing my education further, and many other useful resources.” 

“Dakota Promise has been a great impact for me since I started in August, 2020," said Dakota student Daniel Ho. "I have been surrounded by amazing coaches to help me stay motivated. The coaches are also great mentors to me as well by keeping me from doubting myself. Being part of Dakota promise also allowed my communication skills to improve and allows me to express my true feelings.” 

Harrison School District 2 was chosen as a partner for this program because of its highly under-served, diverse population and long standing partnership with PPCC. Harrison has shown its commitment to serving their students in the higher education arena. 

“Partnering with PPCC through the Dakota Promise program makes college an option for all of our students," said Harrison School District Superintendent Wendy Birhanzel.  "We know the financial barrier often prohibits students from exploring the option of a college degree or trade certificate straight out of high school. This is one of the best gifts we can give our graduates." 

To be eligible for the program, students must have a minimum of a 2.25 cumulative (or junior + senior year) weighted GPA, enroll at PPCC within 16 months of graduation, enroll and complete a minimum of 24 credit hours per academic year and apply for financial aid (FAFSA/CASFA) per academic year.
The Dakota program pays the difference between grants a student receives from financial aid, and in-class tuition and fees and books. 

Students must complete a minimum of 24 credit hours per academic year and maintain a 2.0 or better GPA and actively participate in the Dakota Promise Coaching Program to continue to receive the scholarship.

About Pikes Peak Community College
Established in 1968 and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, PPCC offers associate degrees, certifications in career and technical fields and two bachelors’ degrees. With three campuses, various off-campus locations, two military education centers, and hundreds of online classes, PPCC provides access to a quality, affordable and flexible education to more than 20,000 students annually with both credit and non-credit classes. More info at

About Harrison School District Two 

Harrison School District Two (HSD2) has been committed to its students' success since its establishment over a century ago as the second oldest district in El Paso County. Over 11,000 students are served in 20 schools, a homeschool academy and three charter schools. More than 2,000 high school students attend one of five high schools in Harrison School District Two. More information at

 More info about the Dakota Promise at

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Media Contacts
Karen Kovaly 
PPCC Marketing & Communication
mobile: 719-235-2987
desk: 719-502-2082

 Christine O'Brien
 HSD2 Public Information Officer
cell: 719-660-2033