Sustainable Funding Models: Privately-Funded Models
Postsecondary education has come to assume an increasingly central role in American life. Nearly 66% of high school graduates enroll in college within 12 months of high-school graduation (Snyder, de Brey & Dillow, 2016), while millions of adults attend college classes to complete a certificate or degree program, retool their job skills, prepare for new careers, or expand their cultural and intellectual horizons (Snyder et al., 2016). However, degree completion falls short of what is needed for the United States to reclaim its place as the world’s most educated nation (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2016). The Obama administration is seeking to ensure that by 2020 roughly 60% of Americans will earn a 2- or 4-year degree (The White House, 2009), while students, families, policymakers and businesspeople across the nation clamor for colleges and universities to contain costs, expand access, and increase success, especially in growth, critical- and high-need disciplines (U.S. Department of the Treasury, 2012).
The United States finds itself in an increasingly competitive global economic environment in which the need for an educated work force is paramount (National Research Council Committee on Comparative National Innovation Policies, 2012). However, the cost of postsecondary education has grown at a rate that makes postsecondary education an improbability for too many and strains our ability to remain competitive. According to data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics, between 2003–04 and 2013–14, the cost of undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board rose 34 percent at public institutions and 25 percent at private nonprofit institutions of higher education (Snyder et al., 2016). These large increases in the cost of higher education pose real challenges to the lives of everyday Americans, given the ample evidence that individuals gain economic and personal benefits from every extra year of education (Pew Research Center, 2014).
College Promise programs were created in many local communities across the U.S. to increase access to a college education and enhance college degree attainment levels, in particular among qualified individuals with lower incomes. Although they differ in size and scope, as well as in their funding sources and goals, College Promise programs across the U.S. tend to share the goals of increasing access to college, building a college-going culture in the school district and local community, and supporting local community and economic development (Miller-Adams, 2015). In this paper we provide an overview of College Promise programs and related initiatives, in particular those funded by private monies, and then delve into promising practices for the funding and sustainability of Promise programs. We concludes with a discussion of the importance of focusing college access and financing efforts such as College Promise programs on reducing academic achievement gaps.