POLICY BRIEF: How Harper College Established Its Promise

POLICY BRIEF: How Harper College Established Its Promise

In 2015, William Rainey Harper College, a large community college in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, worked in partnership with its three feeder high school districts to implement the Harper College Promise Scholarship Program (“Promise”) to incentivize a path to postsecondary and workforce readiness for students in these schools. The Promise Program, supported through a combination of public and private funding, commits to providing last-dollar tuition payments to Promise Scholars who commit to the program as ninth graders and consistently (over the next four years and the first four semesters at Harper) meet specific measures in attendance, rigor, persistence, quality, and service to the community.

The first cohort of Promise Scholars, enrolled as high school freshmen in fall 2015, will matriculate to Harper College in fall 2019. As of May 2019, more than $18.6 million in private and public funding has been generated to support the Promise Program from more than 770 individual donors; the college’s long-term goal is to have the scholarship fully endowed so that the program will continue in perpetuity.

This brief provides a summary of how Harper College established a College Promise Leadership Consortium and collective impact strategy to support the creation of its Promise Program. Download the full policy brief here.

About the Author

Dr. Kenneth Ender served as the fifth President of William Rainey Harper College in Palatine, Illinois, for 10 years and became President Emeritus on July 1, 2019. He will become a Professor of Practice at the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research at North Carolina State University. Through partnerships and alliances, Dr. Ender positioned Harper as a leading 21st century community college by increasing graduation, transfer and certificate completion rates, aligning Harper’s curriculum with high schools, training students for new economy jobs and implementing new accountability and transparency standards. Under his leadership, Harper has experienced record graduation rates and a dramatic increase in the number of students who come to Harper college-ready.

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