College Promise programs incentivize college enrollment, persistence, and completion by providing financial support to students based on where they live or where they attend school.

A new report, written by WestEd’s California College Promise Project (CCPP), discusses the characteristics of California’s programs, and highlights perceptions from leaders and practitioners about this increasingly popular model.

WestEd’s CCPP tracks the growth of College Promise programs, leads statewide convenings, and provides research, evaluation, technical assistance, and other resources to influence a strong college-going culture throughout California. Earlier this year, CCPP surveyed or interviewed more than 150 practitioners, leaders, and policymakers about their perceptions of College Promise programs in California.

Most expressed an overall sense of optimism and belief that the College Promise model is here to stay. At the same time, respondents report that the current period of transformational change in the California community college system is a crucial time for the future of College Promise. They stressed the importance of collaborating with external partners and aligning with other community college initiatives, such as guided pathways and the use of multiple measures to determine course placement.

While providing financial support is a key feature of College Promise, CCPP’s research found that programs in California emphasize more than just monetary assistance, pairing financial aid with academic and student support services, such as assigning students to a learning community or requiring them to meet regularly with an academic advisor or attend student success workshops.

The recent passage of Assembly Bill 19 (AB19, California College Promise) resulted in a $46 million allocation in the 2018/19 state budget for community colleges to use toward increasing community college access, completion, and transfer, and reducing and eliminating achievement gaps for low-income and underrepresented students. In the time since CCPP’s study was conducted, the number of programs has grown dramatically. At least 69 programs serve students across the state, up from 42 before AB19 passed. An amendment to AB19, extending College Promise funding from one to two academic years, was introduced on December 3, 2018 (AB2, California College Promise).

Supported by the California-based James Irvine Foundation, this report represents the latest in WestEd’s growing footprint in the College Promise sector. Earlier this year, CCPP’s work with Los Angeles County’s Promises That Count initiative was featured in Forbes magazine. In the coming months, CCPP will release a guidebook for institutions that are launching new Promise programs or expanding existing ones, accompanied by a series of workshops throughout California.

Visit the CCPP website to access the report and learn more about how the team is serving College Promise communities across the state.