Sadly, we live in an era when the cost of college and the size of student debt plague middle-class families who dream of sending
their children to college to achieve a better
life. No sector of higher education is better
equipped to assist families with this effort
than America’s community colleges. Now,
thanks to a national initiative known as
the College Promise, many of our colleges
can offer scholarships that cover tuition
and fees to students for whom attending
college full time has been merely a dream.
Without the support of Promise
programs, many families make “too
much money” to be Pell eligible and yet
too little money to attend even the local
community college full time. We know
their plight well: students sign up for a
course or two while working full time as
a barista, a nanny, a gas station attendant
or a tow truck driver. It often takes these
part-time students six to eight years to
finish a two-year degree and many more
to earn a bachelor’s degree. Barista and
tow truck driver are good, honest jobs, but
the salaries that accompany them are a
far cry from what the completed degree
will enable the graduate to earn.
A Promise program is not a handout
or government-supported boondoggle for
a few privileged individuals. Far from it!
It is an investment in an individual, in a
family…and in a community.
My own community college recently
benefited from a county-sponsored
Promise program allowing eligible students
the chance to study full time and pursue a
degree or workplace credential debt-free.
And, better yet, a state-funded Promise
program in Maryland is set to take effect in
fall 2019, further extending its reach to help
our students. With a student population of
62,000, 89 percent of whom attend part time,
imagine the impact this will have for our
college moving forward. Eligible Promise
students will be able to finish an associate
degree in two years and be ready to move
on to a university or employment. Others
will earn short-term workplace creden-
tials and be job-ready within months, at
no cost to themselves or their families. It
is a privilege to be a part of this growing
movement which is changing conversa-
tions about college across this nation.
Our colleague, Martha Kanter, the real
spirit behind the national Promise initiative, insists, “We have promises to keep!”
I will add that a “Promise Scholarship” is
so much more than a “promise;” it is an
investment in the economic and social
well-being of our communities. The
Promise crosses political party lines.
We are Democracy’s colleges. We serve
everyone’s constituents: Republicans,
Democrats, Libertarians. The best part of
this investment is that most community
college graduates continue to live and
work right in their communities. They
get jobs, buy houses, pay taxes and send
their children to local schools. Talk about
a smart investment in human capital!
This dividend, writ large in strengthened
families and communities, is the real
“promise” of a College Promise program.
Sandra L. Kurtinitis is president of Community College of
Baltimore County and chair of the AACC Board of Directors.
T E R Sandra L. Kurtinitis
DIREC TOR OF PUBLICATIONS
Leander Foley III
Douglas J. Guth
Sandra L. Kurtinitis
LSC Communications–Liberty, Mo.
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Volume 89 , Issue 2.
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“Without the support of Promise programs, many
families make ‘too much money’ to be Pell eligible and
yet too little money to attend even the local community
college full time.”