College Promise In California
By Dr. Mary Rauner, a Senior Research Associate at WestEd
This was originally posted on Forbes.
College Promise programs are growing steadily across the country. The size, scope, and structure of these programs vary, but they all aim to help students get the education they need without taking on unmanageable student debt.
Nowhere has that growth been as rapid as in California, where there are currently more than 50 programs, the largest number in any state. In some states, like Tennessee and New York, the same eligibility requirements and program benefits are offered to all state residents. A different model evolved in the Golden State. Here, communities—mostly led by community colleges—combine state and private funding, allowing them the flexibility to respond to the unique economic and social needs of their community.
Building on its long history of ensuring that higher education in affordable for state residents, California College Promise legislation (AB19) was passed in 2018 and supplements another initiative underway since 1985, the recently renamed California Promise Grant.
In many California Promise programs, community leaders from education, government, business, and philanthropy are working together to provide a network of support and services to make college more affordable and to boost the number of students who start and complete a community college education. Programs also offer, and in some cases require, that students participate in academic and other student support service programs to guide their pathway to and through college.
Strengthening Student Support in LA County
In addition to leading statewide convenings and providing resources to help California communities develop robust College Promise programs, the California College Promise Project (CCPP) at WestEd has teamed up with the California Community Foundation, UNITE-LA, and the Campaign for College Opportunity to support College Promise programs in Los Angeles County through the Promises That Count initiative that:
Strengthens the academic and students support services within College Promise programs;
- Convenes a community of practice that includes teams of education and community leaders from seven different College Promise programs, including:
- Cerritos Complete (Cerritos College), First Year Promise (College of the Canyons), Long Beach Promise (Long Beach City College), Los Angeles Promise (Los Angeles Community College District), Pasadena City College Promise (Pasadena City College), Rio Promise (Rio Hondo College), and South Bay Promise (El Camino College); and
- Hosts larger convenings for all existing and prospective College Promise programs in Los Angeles County.
In California, and throughout the county, we know that students need more than financial support to make it to and through college to get the education and skills they need to support themselves and their families into the future. We know they need mentoring, advising and other support services to guide and help them as they work toward a college degree or technical certificate.
We also understand that College Promise programs are more effective when various sectors within communities come together to support students on their educational journey. The Promises That Count initiative demonstrates how community partners can work with the K-12, community college and four-year college and universities to support students.
There is much work to be done to ensure that programs in California:
- Develop and maintain strong, coordinated collaboration within their institutions, and with other education systems and community partners;
- Secure diverse portfolios of financial support to ensure ongoing sustainability; and
- Maintain a commitment to equity.
Forthcoming research from the California College Promise Project shows that California College Promise stakeholders are optimistic about the positive impact of College Promise programs. The success of California’s future college students looks promising given the state’s vigorous commitment to support College Promise and the desire of leaders from business, education, government, and philanthropy to design robust and effective programs that ensure success for all of California’s students.
That’s good for students, families, and the economic vitality of California’s communities.