Building College Promise in Your City or County
In early 2018, the College Promise Campaign and West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon will release a playbook for mayors, county executives, and other locally-elected leaders as they establish or expand College Promise programs in their communities.
College Promise programs cover, at a minimum, the cost of tuition and fees to make a college degree more affordable, accessible, and attainable for every hardworking student. The playbook will detail how to make a compelling case for College Promise programs, identify supportive leaders, cultivate broad-based support, design and fund the programs best suited to fit your needs, launch and implement your programs successfully, and prepare for sustainability.
Why College Promise?
In the 21st Century, a high school diploma is no longer enough to guarantee access to a good job and a decent quality of life. Some form of postsecondary education is needed to resolve the middle skills gap in cities and towns across the United States. Through College Promise programs, certifications and Associate degrees are becoming more affordable and accessible to all.
Investing in College Promise
A generation ago, the U.S. led the world in the number of college-educated adults; today we are 12th. Only 46% of U.S. adults are prepared for the workforce. Thousands of students are not completing degrees, certificates, or not attending college at all. In part, this is due to rising college costs throughout the country and decreasing levels of state funding. This problem disproportionately impacts opportunities for social and economic mobility for our nation’s most vulnerable geographic regions and individuals, making the cost of college more burdensome for students and families who could benefit most from these opportunities.
Well-designed College Promise programs can increase high school graduation rates, college
enrollment and graduation rates at local colleges. They stimulate local economies. This is not just an investment in individuals – it is an investment in our families and communities.
Who’s at the Forefront?
Mayors, county executives, workforce investment board chairs, and other community and municipal leaders are uniquely positioned to galvanize cross-sector support for these initiatives. They transform ideas into action by coordinating their community’s institutions and resources in ways that many others cannot.
Pillars of Support
Every College Promise program needs a central champion who unites broad-based community support. While each community’s key sectors may differ, key stakeholders often include leaders from elected offices, education, business, nonprofits, philanthropy, labor, student groups, and community organizations.
Designing College Promise
Every city is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all College Promise model. Funding models vary and can depend on what development resources are at your disposal, the number of students you intend to serve, and the program’s eligibility and persistence requirements. Programs are funded through private dollars (foundations, businesses, alumni), public dollars (tax revenue, government appropriations), or often a combination of the two. Common funding models include:
- First Dollar: a handful of programs employ a “First Dollar” model where students are awarded the full amount of financial coverage available, without taking into account any additional funding or grants for which the student is eligible (e.g., a federal Pell Grant).
- Last Dollar: The most common funding model for College Promise programs is “Last Dollar,” where tuition and fees are covered after a student has exhausted all other forms of financial aid (e.g., Pell grants, state aid, local scholarships, and institutional grants).
- Last Dollar Plus: Like the model described above, in a “Last Dollar Plus” model, tuition is covered after a student has exhausted all other forms of financial aid (e.g., Pell grants, state aid, local scholarships, and institutional grants). Unlike a traditional “Last-Dollar” model, a “Last-Dollar plus” model offers additional financial aid to students (e.g., offering a stipend for books or transportation, etc.).
Eligibility criteria are commonly used to determine the population of students served by College Promise programs. Common criteria include: age, GPA, residency in a school district, community or state, financial need, community service, among others.
Setting Students Up for Success
Many students who qualify for College Promise programs are the first in their families to attend college. College Promise programs care as much about graduation as they do about enrollment – that’s why many are developing creative ways to provide support to students. Early research finds that College Promise dollars coupled with responsive eligibility requirements and support services lead to an increase in college access and completion rates. From mentoring services to FAFSA tutorials and college counseling, College Promise students are receiving the help they need to complete their education.
Building a College Promise program is an investment in your community. Be the first to receive a copy of the playbook by registering at CollegePromise.org/Electeds. We look forward to sharing the playbook with you in March 2018.