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NAJEE’S NOTES: College Promise program launched

Great news for qualified graduating high students of LAUSD. I had an opportunity Sept. 14 to visit Los Angeles City College and cover the historic announcement made by Mayor Eric Garcetti and a host of local and national partners.

They announced the L.A. College Promise, making Los Angeles the largest city in America to guarantee high school graduates in the class of 2017 at least one tuition-free year of higher education.

The announcement was made on the campus, where Mayor Garcetti was joined by Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden; Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom; Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees President Scott Svonkin; LAUSD school board President Steve Zimmer; LACCD Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez and LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King.

LAUSD students who began classes in the fall and graduate in 2017 will be the first to qualify for the L.A. College Promise, which guarantees admission and a year of tuition-free education on one of the nine campuses in the Los Angeles Community College District. The L.A. College Promise will provide students with resources and support that ranges from tutoring and mentoring programs to financial literacy workshops.

“Higher education should be within reach for every student in Los Angeles,” Mayor Garcetti said. “The L.A. College Promise is a path for every Angeleno to earn a high school diploma and pursue the skills and education they need to realize their dreams and potential.

“When the first promise students step onto campus next fall, they’ll be doing more than putting themselves on a launching pad to prosperity — they’ll embody a commitment that is fundamental to who we are as a people, and what we want for our future.”

To be eligible for enrollment, applicants must be graduating LAUSD seniors (class of 2017) who are eligible for California in-state resident tuition and have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or California Dream Act applications. Last year, the White House released the America’s College Promise proposal to make two years of community college free for responsible students.

“Today, there is tremendous reason to celebrate,” Biden said. “Today is about a promise that we as Americans must make to all of you.

“We are here to celebrate the L.A. College Promise, but what does that mean?  A promise is not just a thought or a nice idea. No, a promise is a declaration. A declaration that your mayor, your schools and your teachers are making to you. It’s a declaration that says we believe in you — every single person here.

“We believe in your determination and resilience. We are making a declaration — an assurance that you can attend one year of school tuition-free. An assurance that you can concentrate on your studies, and get ahead.”

Unemployment is currently highest among Americans who completed their education with a high school diploma or less. By 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree — and 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree, according to a Georgetown University report.

“The LACCD Board of Trustees committed to President Obama’s ‘America’s College Promise’ when we heard of his initiative,” Svonkin said. “We are the nation’s largest community college district and proud to create a Promise program as President Obama envisioned.

“We want to thank Dr. Jill Biden for her leadership and helping us launch the Los Angeles College Promise. This is just the beginning. Our goal is free community college for everyone. We are engaging the business community — that is in need of a qualified and trained work force — and philanthropists that understand the value of community colleges to work with us and support free community college educations for generations to come”

“L.A. Unified is honored to join with the Los Angeles Community College District and the city of Los Angeles in educating the next generation of skilled workers, creative thinkers and effective problem-solvers,” Superintendent Michelle King said. “Of the 30,000 students who graduated in 2015, more than 60 percent pursued a post-secondary education immediately after high school, including 37 percent who enrolled in community college.

“With this new agreement in place, the class of 2017 will be empowered to enroll in a community college that offers the courses, the certificate and the transfer opportunities for them to embark on a career or pursue a university degree. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of our students, our families, and the future of Los Angeles.”

The Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles has raised $1.75 million to cover more than half the cost of the first year of L.A. College Promise. Donors include the Karsh Family Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Union Bank Foundation and the Baxter Family Foundation.

This is the type of leadership our city needs. For students struggling financially in South L.A., where financial support for college is critical, this should be welcome news for our high school seniors and their family’s.

Also in attendance was a who’s who of L.A.leaders that included  Sydney Kamalger-Dove, an LACCD board member; Deputy Mayor Brenda Shockley, and several members of the National Action Network’s education committee.

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