Making Promises Count

November 14, 2017

“Community college changed my life.” Assemblymember Miguel Santiago’s voice echoed throughout the room at the California Community Foundation’s convening center. He told the crowd at last month’s Promises That Count convening how he, like many Angelenos, benefitted from starting his postsecondary education at a local community college. Now, Santiago, other policy makers and education funders are working to give the next generation of Los Angeles college students that same opportunity.

New research shows the need for a college-educated work-force in the U.S. has never been greater. By 2020, more than 60 percent “of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education.” But for many would-be community college students, the price is a major deterrent. California residents pay between $1,100 to $1,400 per year. And that’s not including books, housing or transportation to get them to class. The rising cost of higher education has made it less accessible for students from low- and middle-income families.

Santiago and other California lawmakers took notice, and passed Assembly Bill 19 this September to establish the California College Promise. Under the new promise, community college districts that commit to aligning their programs with effective student support activities will be allowed to waive the first year of tuition fees for all full-time students, regardless of financial need. The hope is that when the bill goes into effect at the start of the new year, it will not only promote equity and increase enrollment but will also increase the number of students graduating from college with degrees.

While it’s encouraging that such a promise has been made, we need to make sure that promise is kept. To do so, CCF developed the Promises That Count Initiative to support the development, implementation and continuous improvement of College Promise efforts in Los Angeles County that aim to enhance their student success services.

CCF partnered with WestEd to create the “Promises That Count” report which looks at the 13 existing College Promises programs in L.A. County. Upon the report’s release, CCF hosted a convening of leaders from the existing programs to better understand the challenges and opportunities for CCF to support a network of College Promises that are committed to helping students succeed.

The group found that the best of these Promise programs give more than financial help, offering community college students additional academic support like personal counseling and tutoring as well as dual enrollment programs and college-prep activities for incoming students. These high-quality programs also align support services with institutional reforms, including using multiple measures to place students in appropriate courses. In addition, they offer tailored advice and guidance to help students maximize the opportunities and resources available to them to succeed in college.

Take Rio Hondo College’s Promise program for example. The innovative program has been praised for offering students targeted counseling, priority registration and assistance with moving on to four-year colleges.

For Rio Hondo, and now a number of other community colleges in the L.A. area, the Promise is just that: a promise to fulfill a pledge to support students from cradle through college. You can click here to find out more information about the programs offered and the plans for the future of CCF’s Promises That Count Initiative.

 

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