South Seattle College’s 13th Year Promise: Making a Difference

Blog Author Brian Duerr

Written by: Brian Duerr, Community Relations Coordinator

Published: October 22, 2015

Found in: Education

Imagine every first grader in our state knowing they can get to college and complete their freshman year without any financial burden. The opportunity to attain a higher education and knowing that opportunity is real from an early age could drastically change the trajectory of an individual and dramatically increase engagement in students. Well, that's exactly what is happening at South Seattle College with the 13th Year Promise.

The program already exists with three south Seattle high schools, and once West Seattle High School is on board (which will be within the next year or two), every single first grader in the south Seattle neighborhoods will know that there are no financial barriers to keep them from achieving their dreams through higher education. The 13th Year Promise Program increases access to higher education, particularly for those from underrepresented groups by providing tuition at South Seattle College for participants' freshman year and resources for success throughout their educational career.

Students of the 13th Year Promise have a fall-winter retention rate of 90% (meaning 90% remain in college), and when you compare that to the 69% fall-winter retention rate of their peers, it's safe to say that this program makes a big impact on more than just a student. It's impacting the underserved and underrepresented communities and families of these students, as well.  

This program already has the support to go statewide by many of our elected officials. WSECU has a long-standing partnership with South Seattle College and has been a supporter of the 13th Year Promise since its inception. The college has received national attention for this innovative and bold program and we are proud to have aided in their efforts to help educate kids in underserved areas.  

Want to serve the underserved? Sixty percent of the 13th Year Promise participants are first-generation college students and 50% work while going to school. It makes sense for this program to have its roots in south Seattle, which is one of the most challenged areas regarding education success metrics in the state....but not for participants in the 13th Year Promise. In fact, students who participate in South Seattle College's program who transfer to UW outperform their peers who entered into UW straight from high school...and these are the kids who, statistically speaking, should be underperforming! Talk about flipping the script! By partnering with the 13th Year, we are changing the trajectory of these kids' lives and we are helping break the cycle of intergenerational poverty!  

I recently met four kids who went thought the program and just graduated from the University of Washington...all four kids were the first in their family to attend college, let alone graduate with a degree from University of Washington! When these kids have children of their own they are now 76% more likely to attend college. Their chances of being part of the middle class by age 40 just increased 40%. That's real change and a partnership we should all feel good about.   WSECU is committed to partnering with programs like the 13th Year Promise that make a high-impact difference in the community.  

Brian Duerr