A year ago today we launched a bold initiative to make a community college education as universal, free, and affordable as high school was in the 20th century. On September 9, 2015, President Barack Obama joined the College Promise Advisory Board at Macomb Community College in Michigan to launch the College Promise Campaign. Since then, we’ve seen the rapid growth of College Promise programs for students progressing to earn their college degrees, certificates, and university transfer requirements. At a time when U.S. companies are seeking a better-trained workforce, a high school education just isn’t sufficient. In a few years, more than 60% of jobs will require a two-year degree at a minimum. Our nation’s students need to be prepared not only to succeed in a career, but to have the knowledge and skills to adapt to a rapidly changing world throughout their lives.
Our efforts over the last year have been built on three pillars:
- With the help of prominent leaders from education, business, students, philanthropy, labor, nonprofits, and government, we’ve engaged support nationwide, where leaders are laying the groundwork for programs that cover tuition and fees for hardworking students.
- We’ve promoted research on how to create College Promise programs, how to ensure students succeed, and how to sustain the College Promise for the long-term. We invite you to join us in October at PromiseNet 2016, where educators, researchers, policymakers, and advocates will share best practices and tools for implementation in their communities and states.
- Third, we’ve cultivated a grassroots movement, Heads Up America, on campuses and communities in every state. In the last year, students and administrators organized events across the country, over 112,000 people pledged support, and millions have learned about the College Promise movement on social media.
The strength of this movement has led to remarkable progress, celebrating a huge increase in the number of College Promise programs in communities across 37 states – over 150 at our last count, with new programs being announced each week. Communities like Oakland, Salt Lake City, Detroit, Wichita, Boston, Houston, and Los Angeles are building on what Long Beach, El Dorado, and Kalamazoo put in place over the past decade. Statehouses throughout the nation saw over 22 legislative proposals introduced, building on steps that Tennessee, Oregon, and Minnesota have already taken. All of these programs are creating educational pathways to good jobs and a decent quality of life without a mountain of student debt. There is undeniable momentum for the College Promise movement.
As we move ahead with our Campaign, we’ll continue to work with leaders from across the country, researchers on the cutting edge of higher education, and our powerful grassroots communities to fund a community college education for students willing to work for it. We are confident that the rapid growth we’ve seen in the first year is just the beginning.
Dr. Martha Kanter
Executive Director, College Promise Campaign