Facts, Impacts, and Successes

Seattle Promise has changed the college landscape for graduates of Seattle high schools, creating new opportunities and possibilities for students from all across the city as they set out on their higher education journeys. The Promise program creates true open access to college through a holistic design that includes tuition assistance, need-based funding for college costs beyond tuition, and individual student support from high school through the first two years of college.

Scroll down to learn more about the Seattle Promise Program, the students we serve, and the good that this program has already accomplished in its first four years. You can also read our case study to learn more about the impact Promise is making in our community.

Fathima Garcia, Seattle Promise student

Seattle Promise has been such a huge blessing to me as a first-generation college student.

— Fathima Garcia, Seattle Central College

Student Profile

Seattle Promise is serving a substantial representation of low-income and historically underserved students.

Seattle Promise is available for all Seattle high school graduates from across the city and, as one of its chief priorities, has improved access for underserved communities. The program has also been able to significantly impact access to higher education for students from BIPOC communities, lower-income families and first-generation students who are the first members of their families to attend college.

With more than two-thirds students of color, Promise scholars continue to be more diverse than the high schools from which they graduated. First generation college students account for more than one-third of the class, and approximately two-thirds are from families making less than $75,000 per year.1

Enrolled Fall to Fall

Abdi Yusuf, Seattle Promise student

When I learned about Promise at the start of my senior year and heard it would cover my tuition, I went straight to my coordinator and said, ‘sign me up!

— Abdi Yusuf, Seattle Central College

Student Recruitment and Enrollment

Students are applying and enrolling in increasingly large numbers, surpassing projections.

Seattle Promise doesn’t begin on students’ first day of college – students receive support while still in high school from the Seattle Promise High School Support Team, who assist them with application and admission to college, as well as completing federal and state financial aid (FAFSA/WAFSA) applications.

New Promise scholars continue to work together with Promise staff upon high school graduation and attend two events – Readiness Academy and Summer Bridge – to prepare for Fall Quarter classes.

This end-to-end support has had a tangible effect on Promise application and enrollment figures. Seattle Promise has experienced consistent growth annually; More than half of all eligible Seattle public high school graduates have applied for Seattle Promise over the last five years with 20 percent of graduates enrolling in Fall 2020, 2021 and 2022. Cohort 2022 is our largest class to date, with 24% (830/3490) of the graduating class choosing to enroll at the Seattle Colleges with Seattle Promise. This shows us just how valuable this program is to Seattle high school graduates, and that access to higher education continues to be a high priority for our city’s youth. 2

From Application to Enrollment

Jessica Darlington, Seattle Promise student

Seattle Promise has been incredible and has helped me to be on this trajectory of getting to study something I’m really interested in, without having to take on a lot of debt.

— Jessica Darlington, North Seattle College

Student Retention

Retention levels for Seattle Promise students have historically been higher than the greater Seattle Colleges community. Eighty-five percent of Promise students continued from Fall 2018 to Winter 2019, and 71 percent continued from Fall 2018 to Spring 2019. This compares to a 72 percent Fall to Winter retention rate and a 58 percent retention rate from Fall to Spring for all Seattle Colleges’ students in the same period.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on retention rates, particularly among the most vulnerable demographics we serve, Seattle Colleges have been working hard to help students who were forced to leave college due to external pressures related to the pandemic. The Promise program has instituted a new retention strategy and quarterly progress checks to further bolster student persistence and completion.

Likewise, our college re-entry program has helped students to resume their college education picking up where they left off, ensuring that they are not left behind as we continue our pandemic recovery. Seattle Colleges implemented policy changes in the fall of 2020 which extended enrollment eligibility to a third year and allowed scholars to enroll part-time or defer enrollment if needed due to pandemic-related challenges. 

Re-entry is positively impacting racial opportunity gaps, and is supporting the student populations most impacted by the pandemic. Over 70% of students who reentered Fall 2021 identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).

As of Summer 2023 this program has helped 156 students re-enter the Promise program and resume their studies.

Retention Rates

Anthony Pham, Seattle Promise student

Seattle Promise makes the college process so easy. Whatever I need, they’ve really helped guide me.

— Anthony Pham, South Seattle College

Student Completion

Students are completing at a rate two times higher than the national community college two-year average.

Although the worldwide pandemic has delayed some students’ progress, Seattle Promise reports a 29 percent two-year completion rate (as of Aug. 2020) and a 37 percent 3-year completion rate (as of August 2021) in contrast to the 13 percent national two-year average and 22 percent national three-year average for community colleges.3

In comparison to the larger Seattle Colleges' student body, although not equivalent, 51 percent of Seattle Colleges’ students (first time to college, full-time students, and including those who transferred without a degree) completed in four years. As the program continues, Seattle Promise will also measure four-year completion rates.

While pandemic recovery efforts are ongoing, student completion rates remain encouraging. For our most recent graduating cohort (2019), BIPOC students are graduating at higher rates (150 percent time) compared to the overall program rate, and in Spring 2024 we are expecting our largest graduating class of more than 150 students.

*Typically, both nationally and within Seattle Colleges, completion rates of community college students—the number of students who complete a degree—are measured over a period of four years. As the program is in its early years, Seattle Promise is currently only able to measure a completion rate in a two-year term and does not include students who transfer to a four-year college without a degree.