As Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan rolls out her free community college program for high school graduates, a new think tank report suggests a key to the program’s success is simplicity.
The Seattle Promise program will launch this fall and pay for two years of community college for Seattle’s School District No. 1 graduates, according to The Seattle Times. The plan has appealing characteristics as it excludes GPA requirements, income cutoffs, and citizenship status. Students don’t have to sign up years ahead of time, and those with legal problems aren’t disqualified. Durkan’s plan is expected to work jointly with the state’s College Bound program plus federal aid and state options.
Durkan and states nationwide aren’t the only plan proponents. In a recent report by think tank The Century Foundation, it examined successful “promise” programs – ones guaranteeing tuition payment for a state’s high school graduates – and found characteristics leading to success.
Jennifer Mishory, the report’s author and a Century Foundation senior fellow, noted simple plans or ones with fewer restrictions will appeal to students. Mishory said via The Seattle Times, “The clearer the message, the easier it is to understand for students who might not otherwise enroll.”
Washington State Plans
To exemplify unclear messaging, Mishory referenced Washington State, one of 16 “promise” states. Its College Bound program pays tuition and fees for low-income students attending two- and four-year colleges, but students must meet requirements: signing up by the eighth grade, maintaining a C average minimum, and lacking legal problems.
Durkan’s proposal has its own caveats including students will largely be assigned to a community college closest to their graduating high school and many middle-income families will need loans. This is because Washington’s State Need Grant, the financial aid program for the state’s low-income students, doesn’t apply to families with low-middle income classifications.
Programs Across the Country
Among the nationwide programs, more than 7,000 Oregon students and 30,000 Tennesseans have already attended community college through free tuition and fees, according to CNN. The Tennessee Promise scholarship initially allowed graduating high school students to attend community college for free. But beginning this fall, adults statewide will be eligible according to LendEDU.
Programs carry various requirements including on-campus living and additional fees. To pay for the programs, funding is sometimes provided by taxpayers or a lottery. Here is a quick look at some other programs.
Rhode Island: After completing a two-year, tuition-free program with a 2.5 GPA, students are required to continue their education, live, or work in the state. See here for more details.
San Francisco: Every city resident is eligible for free tuition at the City College of San Francisco to either take a class or pursue a degree. LendEDU covered this development in February 2017.
New York: Free tuition is available for two- and four-year colleges at City University of New York or a State University school. However, students of families earning more than $125,000 annually are ineligible.
Author: Mike Brown
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