In April, the College Promise Campaign (CPC) celebrated National Community College Month with four weeks of action to build public support for free community college. The effort garnered the support of celebrities including Kal Penn and Ted Allen, elected officials like Governor Gina Raimondo (D-RI) and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA), partners like the Biden Foundation and State University of New York system, and passionate students across the country.
From spotlighting students who struggle with the crushing costs of college, to amplifying the success of College Promise programs, CPC leveraged each week to demonstrate that a high school diploma is no longer enough. Every hardworking student should be able to attend community college and be prepared for a rewarding career.
Heads Up America, CPC’s initiative to build support for free community college, awarded $2,850 in prize money to winners of its Instagram student video competition. Students were asked to submit videos about what free community college would mean to them. The competition, which was judged by celebrities Kal Penn, Ted Allen, and student Rachel Chambers earned millions of views on social media.
The grand prize went to Dilia Samadova, an education major from Terra State Community College in Fremont, OH, who submitted a powerful video about her struggles to afford college while working two jobs. Samadova received $2,000—roughly the cost of a semester of community college tuition—for her first-place win.
At the annual conference of Phi Theta Kappa—the community college honor society, hundreds of students stepped up to get involved with the campaign and to pledge their support for free community college. Over 4,000 attended the event in Nashville, TN, which featured a series of Heads Up America-sponsored workshops.
Throughout April, on campuses from Maine to Hawaii, students and administrators held events showing their support for free community college. Many hosted screenings of “No Greater Odds,” a documentary produced by the College of Southern Nevada demonstrating the power of a community college education.
Students weren’t alone in showing their support for free community college. CPC Chair Dr. Jill Biden voiced her ongoing commitment to building support for free community college at the American Association of Community Colleges convention in New Orleans. More than 2,000 community college presidents and administrators attended the conference, which included a well-attended session about the growing free community college movement.
Other leaders showed their support on social media. CPC asked College Promise programs and their supporters to share their successes using #PromiseProud. Over 50 programs and organizations participated, including SUNY, the Biden foundation, and the teams of Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. The weeklong social media push reached over 2 million people on both Twitter and Instagram.
The campaign also launched an effort for champions to write Op-Eds in support of free community college. Several supporters published pieces, including CPC Executive Director Martha Kanter on Forbes.com and Gateway Community College President Brian Albrecht in Wisconsin’s Journal Times.
As the campaign’s built nationwide support for free community college, communities and states across the country—from Massachusetts to Hawaii—were busy planning and launching new free community college programs. On April 10, New York became the first state to provide free tuition for eligible students to attend any of its two or four-year public colleges or universities. There are now about 200 free community college programs in more than 40 states.