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South Seattle College’s 13th Year Promise Scholarship, currently offering one year of tuition-free college to graduating seniors from three high schools, is set to expand to additional colleges and high schools (including West Seattle High School!) thanks to support from Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle’s City Council.
The City of Seattle will invest $750,000 for 2017 and again in 2018 from the city’s general fund to help with operational costs to expand the existing program at South Seattle College, and replicate the program at Seattle Central College and North Seattle College. Council President Bruce Harrell championed this proposal from the beginning, and South students, staff and faculty all testified to the importance of the 13th Year program at City Hall.
On Feb. 21, Mayor Murray announced a plan to provide a separate, one-time $5 million investment to be placed in an endowment to help cover tuition costs for future 13th Year Scholars as the program expands to additional Seattle high schools. Murray said that funding would come from a two-cents per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, starting in 2018, which he will propose to City Council.
“We have heard loud and clear that we must address the persistent disparities and outcomes in our public schools between white students and black students, and other historically underserved students of color,” Murray said during his State of the City address, while discussing education investments from kindergarten through higher education.
“The 13th Year Promise Scholarship started at South in 2008 with the generous support of our donors, and has made higher education a reality for hundreds of students, many of whom never thought they would attend college,” said South Seattle College President Gary Oertli. “With this amazing support from Mayor Murray, Seattle’s City Council and the donor community, a historic step is underway to eventually make higher education available to all of Seattle’s high school graduates.”
South Seattle College will expand their 13th Year program to include West Seattle High School, starting with WSHS’s 2018 graduating class (it is currently offered at Cleveland, Chief Sealth International and Rainier Beach high schools). Seattle Central and North Seattle colleges are currently evaluating which high schools they will expand to once the program infrastructure is in place. 13th Year staff from South will help the other colleges implement their own program.
“We are thrilled to be able offer the 13th Year Promise Scholarship to West Seattle High School’s Class of 2018 graduates,” said Oertli. “This expansion means we will finally able to provide one year of tuition-free college to every student from comprehensive high schools in South’s service area. It creates the opportunity for all to envision themselves as college students who will pursue careers grounded in passion.”
The 13th Year Promise Scholarship currently guarantees every graduate from participating high schools the opportunity to attend South Seattle College tuition-free for one year along with special support services to help them succeed. The program’s purpose is to Increase access to higher education and improve success rates for our community’s students, particularly those from underrepresented groups (e.g. students of color, low-income students and first-generation college students).