VIDEO: 2 days, 2 West Seattle stops for Mayor Jenny Durkan , visiting South Seattle College to launch expanded free-college program

On Mayor Jenny Durkan‘s second day in office, she made her second visit to West Seattle, taking her first step toward fulfilling one of her campaign promises – two years of free community college for all Seattle high-school graduates. The program she calls Seattle Promise is set in motion by an executive order she signed at South Seattle College (WSB sponsor), which for almost a decade has been home to a program called 13th Year Promise. That program offers a free year at SSC to graduates of certain Seattle public high schools – currently including Chief Sealth International High School, and starting next year, to also include West Seattle High School.

Durkan’s plan is for ultimately all Seattle graduates to be able to get two years of free community college. But the order she signed at SSC – read it here – first guarantees a second year for those in the 13th Year Promise program this year, and then sets up a process for figuring out how to pay for expansion, with a plan due by next March:

Identify how existing resources and funding sources, including federal, state or regional
funds, the Families and Education Levy and Seattle Preschool Program Levy renewal, the
Seattle Public school local levy renewal, and philanthropic resources, can be deployed to
maximize student access to the Promise Program.

To underscore the mention of the levies, two paragraphs later, the mayor’s order directs two departments to “immediately consider the Seattle Promise College Tuition Program for inclusion in the proposal for the renewal of the Families and Education Levy and the Seattle Preschool Levy in 2018.”

This afternoon’s announcement was held with a gathered backdrop of SSC students – who were hailed as the real “dignitaries” at the event – plus others including City Council President Bruce Harrell (who spoke), Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (who did not), SSC and Seattle Colleges leaders including the system’s chancellor, Dr. Shouan Pan.

Dr. Pan said this program will be a “gamechanger” for many. (Added) He was the first speaker; here’s our video of the full event:

We also saw former SSC president Gary Oertli, who was beaming, saying the 13th Year Promise program “was my baby” and expressing pride that it’s up for expansion. Speaking of expansion, the event was held in the foyer of newly opened Cascade Hall on the northwest side of the SSC campus. While classes are being held there now and some faculty members have moved into offices, its formal dedication is still a few months away. It’s headquarters to the SSC nursing program, and we got a quick peek this afternoon into classrooms such as this hospital simulation area:

SIDE NOTE: So far, no third-day-in-a-row plan for a mayoral visit tomorrow – she has announced a visit to Capitol Hill, where she’ll tour small businesses (as she did during a campaign visit to West Seattle a few months ago) before announcing the creation of a Small Business Advisory Council.

5 Replies to "VIDEO: 2 days, 2 West Seattle stops for Mayor Jenny Durkan , visiting South Seattle College to launch expanded free-college program"

  • Huck November 30, 2017 (10:08 am)

    I haven’t had time to dig into this, but does anyone know if the graduates have a minimum GPA requirement? Or can any graduate take advantage of this?

    • WSB November 30, 2017 (10:11 am)

      The current program has no GPA requirement. Just that you have graduated.

      But it’s only been open to graduates of certain schools – here in WS, Chief Sealth IHS, with, as mentioned, expansion to WSHS starting next year. The mayor wants to expand it citywide.

    • Bradley November 30, 2017 (2:30 pm)

      Very good question. I would hate to see a kid from a wealthy family who barely graduated with all D’s get the same college funding as an A+ student with struggling parents.

  • zark00 December 1, 2017 (2:41 pm)

    All kids, regardless or socioeconomic status, should be afforded the same opportunities.  Discrimination against anyone, for any reason, is evil.  You never know a situation; you can’t know if a rich kids parents haven’t cut them off, you can’t know if a D student never got the help they needed for a learning disability.  Discrimination is malicious ignorance, and makes a situation worse 100% of the time.  Even when you think you are discriminating the “right way” you are not; you’re just being divisive and cruel in a new and different way. 

    • WSB December 1, 2017 (3:02 pm)

      Thank you, and for those who seem to think this is some sort of big giveaway, even in the near-decade that the current program has been in operation, those choosing to use the opportunity have not been anywhere near the number of those who could. As we reported in September, this year’s incoming 13th Year Promise class is the biggest yet – 150 students. From covering graduations over the past decade, I’d estimate the average local graduating class at ~250, so with three schools eligible, that’s ~750, meaning 20 percent of those eligible are participating. Even just to graduate is a big hurdle to clear – Seattle Public Schools has about a 75% rate. – TR

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