Building a Promise

There is no single way to build a College Promise; there are almost as many models as there are programs. If you want to propose a College Promise for your community, your leadership team can choose from a wide range of options and zero in on the ones that best meet the needs of your students, your region, and state. And — like many communities have done — you can be innovative in designing the Promise, working with various stakeholders from education, business, government, philanthropy, labor, nonprofits, students, and families. All across the country, College Promise programs have enjoyed bipartisan support as communities develop and implement strategies to finance their programs. Some use a hybrid mixture of local, state, and federal funds; others use only local and/or state dollars; and still others are solely privately funded. A variety of programs rely on public and private partnerships with help from corporations and philanthropy. Some are designed for a single campus or college district, while others are city or county-wide. Still others, like those in Tennessee, Oregon, and Minnesota, are statewide.


To seek support for creating a College Promise in your community, consider reaching out to the key sectors we have identified as possible stakeholders: leaders from higher education, K-12, early learning, business, labor, non-profit organizations, philanthropy, student and family advocates, and elected officials. Take time to assess how making a community college education accessible, freely available, and affordable would benefit the specific education and workforce needs of your community and state. Learn from the existing College Promise program designs in communities like yours and host meetings to propose the College Promise design and implementation strategies that will work best for your population.


Also, consider making your voice heard in the College Promise movement to make a community college education – at a minimum – as universal, affordable and accessible as public high school has been for nearly a century. In doing so, we all will benefit from a better educated America, as more students become equipped with the knowledge and skills needed for success in the 21st century.

However you design your College Promise program, here are some questions to begin the plan forward:


  • How will your program become financially sustainable? Will it be able to deliver the promise of a community college education for future generations, ensuring that students and families understand that a college education is within reach?
  • Does it incorporate support services, such as mentoring, apprenticeships, social services, etc, to help students succeed, ready to earn their college degrees and certificates well prepared for the workforce and community life?
  • Does your Promise program reach out to the Pre-K-12 sector in your community so parents and educators can work together to prepare students for higher education, creating a “college-going culture” that a college education is expected?
  • What eligibility requirements do you plan to set for participating students, such as GPA, community service hours, FAFSA completion, or regular meetings with a counselor or mentor, to ensure that hardworking students make the kind of progress that results in a college degree or certificate?

For more detailed information about building a College Promise program, please click here to access our College Promise resource bank, which includes program descriptions of current College Promise programs, a playbook for building a Promise, toolkits for advocating for Promise, and a many other resources.

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