Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More low-income kids could be college bound

Washington is having great success so far with a new program designed to get low-income kids planning early for a college education. The state-wide program is called College Bound, and even though it has only been around for two years, it has already seen its enrollment double since last year. By catching kids early in their school career, while they still have time to get prepared for college, College Bound promises middle school kids who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch a scholarship covering tuition and books at Washington’s two- and four-year public colleges and universities, and many of its private schools too.

Washington recognizes the fact that the children of parents who never attended college are the least likely to go themselves, and that achieving a college education creates wealth not only for the graduate, but also for their community.

Planning for college starts early: students must choose their high school classes carefully, keep their grades up, and come up with the means of paying for their higher education. If low-income kids don’t think they will go to college, they don’t do the necessary things throughout high school that will get them there.

College Bound motivates students to plan ahead. Basically, it asks students to sign up for the program by the end of eighth grade, maintain at least a 2.0 high school grade point average, graduate from high school “crime free,” and be accepted to an approved degree or certificate program. The hope is that with a promising future to look forward to, these kids will stay in school and stay out of trouble.

State-wide, there are 90,000 kids who qualify for the program, and in only its second year, forty percent of those kids have signed up. It’s too soon to tell how well College Bound will keep these at risk kids in high school and moving onto college, but it removes a couple of huge obstacles that now stand in their way: the high cost of higher education and inadequate preparation for it. The students' parents can be more supportive of their college ambitions, knowing that its major costs are being paid for, and the kids can go through high school with this goal in mind.

In just three years, the first students who entered the program will start college and then we’ll have a better sense of College Bound’s success. Education is always a wise investment though, and investing in low-income kids should pay huge dividends for Washington. With college costs escalating, higher education is becoming even more out of reach for many families.

College Bound gives the kids least likely to go to college, the opportunity to make a better life for themselves. Let's hope it is successful.

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