Delaware legislature one step closer to expanding SEED scholarship eligibility

Delaware Technical Community College Wilmington

Delaware Technical Community College Wilmington campus. (Courtesy of DTCC)

Delaware legislation that aims to expand eligibility for a state scholarship known as the Student Excellence Equals Degree program, or SEED, is one step closer to becoming law.

The state Senate voted 17-4 on Tuesday in favor of the bill that would provide more Delawareans an opportunity to achieve their associate’s degrees or other accreditation at no cost. There was no debate on the bill during the virtual session. The legislation now awaits a vote from the House.

The goal of the original SEED program was to help students who wanted to enroll in college but struggled to pay for tuition. But it’s not just high school students that need help, said the bill’s sponsor state Sen. Nicole Poore (D-12).

“We’ve set some pretty awful new records for unemployment during this pandemic, and for many of my neighbors, the economy is beginning to pick back up and they’re getting back to work — but for some, their old jobs may never return,” she said before the vote. “That’s why expanding SEED to reach those adults who would benefit most from learning new job skills is critical at this point in our state’s history.”

Delaware’s SEED scholarship funds in-state students’ degrees at community colleges — as well as the University of Delaware’s Associates in Arts program, which allows students to get their associate’s degree at its Wilmington campus before transferring to the main campus in Newark to finish their education.

But the SEED scholarship currently is limited to recent high school graduates with a 2.5 GPA or higher who have no previous felony convictions. There also are limits on how much tuition the scholarship will cover, and for how long.

The legislation would eliminate the current requirement to enroll in college immediately after high school. That means individuals with GEDs, Delaware State Board of Education endorsements, or secondary credentials could also apply — as well as those who want to start college or trade classes later in their lives.

Under the proposed bill, students could also take up to five years to complete their associate’s degree — compared to the current two-year deadline. Lawmakers say that will help those balancing school and work.

The original legislation also proposed funding up to 10 semesters of a bachelor’s degree — SEED currently only covers six semesters. But on Tuesday, lawmakers approved an amendment to eliminate that change because they believed it would be cost-prohibitive.

People previously convicted of nonviolent felonies and drug-related violent felonies also would be eligible for SEED for the first time if the legislation passes in the General Assembly.

Lawmakers say the expansion would allow hundreds of additional Delawareans to seek new skills, including in Del Tech’s non-credit workforce development programs — or its academic credential courses.

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