College Promise programs continue to grow

The College Promise movement — which focuses on providing a free community college education to qualifying students — continues to gain traction, according to an annual update from the two-year-old College Promise Campaign.

Over the past year, more than 50 new College Promise programs were announced or created in small communities, large cities and states, according to the report. Momentum among states was particularly noticeable, with legislation and executive orders from governors and legislators in 15 states launching their versions of the program, with California and New York among them.

“New College Promise programs are evolving at a rapid pace because communities and states recognize that a high school education is insufficient to secure a good job and a decent quality of life in today’s economy,” said the report, which noted there are now more than 200 College Promise programs across 41 states.

Aside from providing free tuition for qualifying traditionally college-age students, several programs across the country are expanding their efforts, the campaign said. The Detroit Promise Path, which started in 2013, has focused on ways to boost the academic success of students in the program. To do so, it created mandatory meeting with “coaches” and enhanced summer engagement, among other things.

Extending the College Promise to adults of any age is also a growing trend, the report said. In May, Tennessee became the first state to offer free community college to adults, regardless of age, through its Tennessee Reconnect program. Also in May, Milwaukee Area Technical College in Wisconsin said it planned to extend its Promise program to adults. This fall, San Francisco will be the first city to offer free community college tuition to all of its residents.

The report also highlighted efforts to create College Promise in rural areas — which on average have fewer student attaining college credentials than students in cities — noting programs at Mohave Community College in Arizona and Vance-Granville Community College in North Carolina.

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