COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Columbus Promise program is aiming to get prospective students excited about college by hosting them at Columbus State Community College.

In its first year, the program paid for more than 700 students to attend their first year of college at Columbus State Community College. Coordinators said they are on pace to enroll the same amount, if not more students, this year.

This year, the program is connecting students with employers while they study through a new program called “Earn and Learn.”

“I wanted to go to OSU. That was my dream school. I got in, but then my tuition ended up being almost $40,000,” said Mohamed Qasim, a senior at Beechcroft High school. “So I said, I would go to Columbus State for the first two years and go free. Instead of paying almost $80,000 and I don’t even know if I want to go to school like that.”

For Bonntte Conteh, however, Columbus State was her first choice because it’s home and “The Columbus Promise” makes it easier to stay put.

“I chose Columbus State because Columbus state is here at home for me. I like to be comfortable in my own space,” said Conteh, who is a senior at Beechcroft as well. “And also with the Columbus Promise you’re going to school for free for two years for free and I feel like I should take and everyone else here should take that advantage.”

Conteh said her family often talks about the burden of tuition and that’s why she’s leaning this way.

“We talk about how they went to other universities and they wish they would have took advantage of going to Columbus state and doing The Columbus Promise because it’s a really good opportunity instead of being in debt and school money and owing loans and stuff,” she said.

All Columbus City Schools seniors are eligible for “The Promise” regardless of GPA they graduate with, as long as they fill out a FAFSA and successfully graduate high school.

The Columbus Promise’s director said this year’s class of student’s will also get a chance to “Earn and Learn” or work part-time with the program’s partner organizations while they attend classes.

“We have employers that we’re working with in the various programs. We have it employers, healthcare, business, non profit employers… students can find job opportunities while they… attend Columbus State,” said Terrence Lawrence, Interim Director The Columbus Promise Program. “Employers will work with the students daily in their everyday transition from college to the work-life balance.”