College Promise Programs Are a Bright Idea We Should All Support
Once upon a time, the acronym COP stood for "Constable on Patrol," and was a euphemism for a policeman (or as we say now "policeperson"). That acronym is getting a remake from an organization called Cities of Promise (also abbreviated COP).
In 81 cities in 21 states, members of this organization offer lottery-based and direct access to free programs that cover two or more years of tuition and other support for students who would otherwise be unable to attend a community college or equivalent institution.
Because most community college-level degree or certificate programs stress preparation for the workforce — often, for specific job roles or career paths — this creates a win-win situation for everyone. All of the cities and colleges, all of the businesses and other program sponsors, all of the participants involved — everyone benefits.
Going for the Win-Win-Win
Local sponsors usually include businesses, governments (usually county and city, sometimes with state help), professional societies and organizations, and educators at all levels. They benefit from promise programs because they gain access to an ongoing feedstock of young, interested and potentially valuable citizen scholars.
The educational institutions win because it helps them meet their mandates and fulfill their missions. Most community colleges take on workforce preparation specifically to meet staffing needs of local businesses and organizations as one of their core objectives.
And most importantly, students win because obtaining a degree remains a cornerstone of improved lifetime earnings and finding meaningful work that pays a living wage in the United States.
Who's Got Promise Programs on Offer?
The following states currently support promise programs (visit the "programs listed by state" page for more info): Alaska, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia.
In fact, you'll find all 81 cities likewise listed on the afore-linked page as well. Parents, students, and possible career changers should all find this information fascinating, as it often extends to students who are "older than average," as the euphemism for adult learners beyond their early 20s used to go.
Most, if not all, such folks should be as eligible to participate as those just graduating from high school and considering their next educational moves.
It's More than Just COPs, Though
There are more sources of information and insight into promise programs than COPs. Here's a list of other pointers that lead to local promise programs around the county:
1) National Conference of State Legislatures: A Promise is a Promise: Free Tuition Programs and How They Work (PDF format)
2) Campaign for Free College Tuition: Promise Programs
3) Wikipedia: College Promise
4) ETS (aka Educational Testing Service): Designing Sustainable Funding for College Promise Initiatives (PDF format)
5) League for Innovation in the Community College: The College Promise: Transforming the Lives of Community College Students
6) Forbes Magazine: There Are 300+ College Programs in 44 States and More to Come in 2019
This is just a sampling of materials available on this topic. To see more than anyone could ever read, search for "college promise programs" or "states with college promise initiatives."
What To Do About Promise Programs?
That's a question I'm asking myself right now, too. My home state, Texas, is not on the COPs list, though I do know of (and have written about for GoCertify) college promise programs in the San Antonio area. I'm kind of wondering why my home metro area of Austin didn't appear on the Cities of Promise list.
I'm thinking lots of other readers may entertain similar thoughts and observations as they look things over and see if their locales are in or out of this club. I'm convinced it's a club worth growing (or joining) and would like to see more people be able to take advantage of promise programs wherever they may be located.
If we all reach out to our local politicians and tell them how important this promise program stuff really is, maybe we can make a difference — especially for those who might then go on to live better and more productive lives as a result of those efforts. Cheers!