Jenny Durkan announces free college plan for Seattle graduates
Seattle mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan announced Monday a proposal to provide free college to Seattle students, should she become mayor.
“At the end of the day, it will be the exception that kids don’t start a program for college,” Durkan said. “It is a necessary road to success. Completion of a degree, for me, is success.”
Durkan notes that one out of four Seattle graduates do not pursue a higher degree after high school; 1/3 for students of color. Her solution is called the “Seattle Promise” plan. It is partially modeled from an existing program in Seattle called the 13th Year Promise Scholarship program. It would provide tuition for every graduate from a public Seattle high school at any community college in Washington state. Four-year universities will not be included. Durkan said that she would implement the program as soon as possible; within her first potential year as mayor.
The cost of Durkan’s plan
Durkan estimates that the program will cost between $4.3 – 5 million in its first year. It will rise to $7 million after that. Durkan further promotes that Seattle can implement such a program without finding new revenue sources.
“We have identified areas we could tap,” Durkan said. “We will be working with stakeholders, obviously the city council and others … it is clear looking at the budget today that we do not have to come up with new revenue sources to fund this.”
Some sources Durkan mentioned would be from the upcoming renewal of the family and education levy, as well as the recently-passed Seattle soda tax. Funds from the Sound Transit 3 levy, slated for education, could also be a source.
“The beauty of this program is for the relatively small amount of money we are investing from this city, the return for our kids is tremendous,” she said.
“It’s not just covering tuition and class fees,” Durkan said. “A critical component of this is we will have advisers and mentors for kids … to help them work through their college applications and financial aid forms. And when they get to college, there will be someone to advise them on what classes to take.”
Durkan said that the Seattle Promise plan is part of a larger vision to address affordability in Seattle, as well as the achievement and opportunity gap in schools.
“For many in America, two of the most important investments are a college degree and a home,” Durkan said. “Today, for most families and young people in Seattle, these investments in the future – college and a home – are completely out of reach, particularly in communities of color. Under Seattle Promise, our kids will know they have a debt-free route to enter the workforce career-ready or pursue further studies at four-year colleges and universities.”
“In the era of Trump, if we want to implement bold progressive ideas to address social and economic inequality and make our city more affordable, we are going to have to act on our own, at the local level,” she said.