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Leveraging New Federal Funding, Mayor Durkan Announces New Seattle Promise Expansion Partnership with Seattle Colleges and University of Washington

City of Seattle and Seattle Colleges announce expanded equity scholarships, access to pre-college coursework in Summer 2021, and University of Washington transfer pathway program for Promise scholars 

SEATTLE (June 3, 2021) – Leveraging new federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announces expansion of Seattle Promise to address impacts on students during COVID-19 and new partnerships with the University of Washington and extended tuition and program supports at Seattle Colleges. Funds will offer additional college preparation and persistence support for recent public high school graduates, particularly students of color, participating in the program. Proposed funds will also bolster Promise scholar pathways to college completion through a new partnership with the University of Washington and extended tuition and program supports at Seattle Colleges. 

“Seattle Promise has always been about making a commitment to our students that college can be a reality. In addition to financial barriers to college, students have faced so many new barriers during COVID-19. To set up more students for success, we’re expanding equity scholarships, creating new summer program, and supporting students who want to return to Seattle Promise or extend their learning beyond two years,” said Mayor Durkan. “Working with Seattle College and the University of Washington, we’re expanding the Seattle Promise program to create opportunities to complete their course of study and more successfully transfer to a four-year institution if they choose. COVID-19 may have changed our city in many ways, but it has not changed my commitment to ensuring all Seattle youth have access to a world class post-secondary education and pathways to high-wage jobs right here in Seattle.”   

New federal funding and partnerships will address educational equity toward three key program outcomes: student preparation for college-level coursework, retention in college, and completion of certificate, credential, degree or transfer to four year institution.  

Immediate program enhancements include: 

  • A new transfer support program in partnership with the University of Washington for Seattle Promise scholars pursuing a transfer degree that includes specialized summer programming and career pathway advising. 
  • An opportunity for 2021 Seattle Public School high school graduates to accelerate access to college-level classes by enrolling in pre-college coursework this summer.  
  • Participating students will have access to all Seattle Promise program components (tuition, equity scholarship, and staff supports) as well as coverage of all applicable enrollment fees.  
  • Expanding the equity scholarship benefit to summer quarter is a new addition and increase the benefit to $1,000—double the current amount.  
  • A completion commitment granting COVID-impacted Promise scholars additional time to complete their degree.   

Additional funded program enhancements to be operationalized in the next academic year include:   

  • Sustaining local demand for Seattle Promise which has exceeded projections   
  • Coverage of student enrollment fees 
  • Enhancements to program and staff support 
  • Development of a robust academic bridge program 
  • Participation in the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) municipal match program 

Interest in Seattle Promise remains as strong as ever. In Fall 2020, the program set a record with more than 845 enrolled participants, 62% of whom identified as students of color and is on track to surpass that figure in 2021. In February, the class of 2021 Seattle Public School high school seniors submitted 2,100 applications to the program.    

“Seattle Promise has been a bright light of hope, a constant amid a year of uncertainty. The resilience and determination students have demonstrated in persisting toward their goals despite the challenges of COVID is remarkable. However, it has not been without serious struggle and setbacks. The Seattle Rescue Plan funding will be a boost of relief to help students complete what they started, to push forward to the next goal, or to launch their college education strong and prepared,” said Seattle Colleges Chancellor Shouan Pan. 

Recent data from the program and feedback from students reflects the impact of COVID-19 on student learning and progress toward college completion. In December 2020, the City passed legislation to remove the two-year enrollment limit for first and second year Promise scholars at the Seattle Colleges, in direct response to student requests to enroll part-time or defer enrollment due to challenges of shifting to remote instruction and other COVID-19 circumstances. 

“My college experience during the pandemic has been a bit hard. Having an extension to the Seattle Promise program gives me the motivation to study even harder and finish my degree,” said Deandra Damdin, second-year Seattle Central Promise scholar and past President and Dean’s list student. “I’m grateful for all the support I feel in the Promise program. My hope is that every student has access to a college promise program like I have had.” 

Understanding the education disparities and challenges of COVID-19 on both high school and college students, DEEL has created a multi-year $10.7 million plan to address to further the success of current and future Seattle Promise students. Federal funding will enable the City to sustain this completion commitment through 2023, as well as support a number of additional investments that promote college success.  

As the program celebrates nearly 50 Promise scholars graduating this June, a new partnership with the University of Washington to support scholars intent on transferring to a four-year institution locally is also launching. The transfer program will provide an academic experience at the University of Washington for Promise scholars the summer before their second year of the Promise program, giving students the opportunity to explore a new discipline, improve their research and writing skills, and be exposed to different academic and career planning resources.  

“The University of Washington and Seattle Colleges have a shared commitment to educational equity and the public good,” said Ed Taylor, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs at the University of Washington. “Deepening our existing partnerships is a natural extension of this mutual goal. Through this work, we are continuing to remove barriers that impede educational opportunities for students and to build in their place bridges that help students find their way.”  

For recent high school graduates who have applied for the Promise program, students will have the opportunity to take pre-college coursework this summer at the Seattle Colleges beginning June 28. English and math courses will be offered at North Seattle, Seattle Central, and South Seattle Colleges in-person, and allow new Promise scholars an opportunity to kick start their college experience before fall enrollment. 

“Every SPS graduate should be able to find a career and build a life close to home. We know students are looking forward to a return to in-person education this fall, both at the K-12 and secondary levels. SPS appreciates this partnership to support our city’s young people – especially those furthest from educational justice – in a successful transition from high school to college.”” said Seattle Public Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Brent Jones.  

The educational equity investments are a part of $41 million in proposed investments toward Community Well-Being as part of the Seattle Rescue Plan. Budget legislation was introduced to City Council this week, and will be considered in mid-June to accept and authorize spending.