The Seattle Promise: Is It The Promise It Promises To Be?

Adam Nance speaks w

Adam Nance speaks. Photograph by Alexander M. Koch.

The Seattle Promise is a new effort to provide financial assistance in the form of scholarship money to students who demonstrate financial need and maintain at least a 3.0 GPA. With $100,000 The Seattle Central Foundation program expects to cover 225 students’ financial needs in the coming academic year. According to the FAQ from The Seattle Promise Press Packet “Students… [who] qualify for federal Pell Grants will be eligible for the Seattle Promise.” This means that students must fill out a FAFSA in order to apply for the scholarship, and demonstrate a substantial financial need. Unfortunately, as one must fill out a FAFSA to qualify, it leaves out a segment of students often most in need of such scholarship money: Students without Social Security numbers, students who are undocumented according to the United States Government.

Today’s launch event, held at SCCC, featured Mayor Mike McGinn, President Killpatrick, The Seattle Central Foundation Executive Director Adam Nance, FareStart Head Chef and SCCC Culinary graduate Varin Keokitvon, and Associated Student Council member Najwa Alsheikh.

Adam Nance said that “Seattle Central’s effort to eliminate financial need as a barrier to paying tuition for getting a higher education in the city of Seattle.” He also stated: “Starting next year if you have financial need tuition will be free if you do two things – enroll full time and maintain a 3.0 grade point average.” Although the scholarship only awards $100,000, it is quite possible that in addition to Federal Pell Grants and Washington State Need Grants, this will be possible – if only for United States Citizens at SCCC. This will not include non-United States Citizens, many felons, and students who, for one reason or another, are unable to provide the appropriate documentation to prove their financial need. Once a student receives the scholarship they will, apparently, continue to receive it if they meet the goals of taking courses full-time and maintaining their 3.0 GPA. This scholarship, it appears, will not be available to current students with an existing GPA below 3.0.

Mayor Mike McGinn. Photograph by Alexander M. Koch.

Mayor Mike McGinn. Photograph by Alexander M. Koch.

Mayor Mike McGinn also spoke. “We are a city that has a lot going for it,” he said regarding businesses, building development, and the number of people moving to this area. “We will keep working to ensure that this is a city [in which] you can achieve.” McGinn’s appearance at this event brought out a large number of both media and students, administrators, and students. He said that this scholarship will be beneficial in bringing down the number of unemployed and under-employed people (approximately, according to the Mayor, 40,000) in the city.

President Paul Killpatrick. Photograph by Alexander M. Koch

President Paul Killpatrick. Photograph by Alexander M. Koch

President Killpatrick spoke next, stating that “the average age of our students is approximately 27 years of age, they don’t have scholarship options that are sometimes available to our younger students” implying that this scholarship will benefit older students who are working while going to school, supporting families, and are already in the workforce. “Too many students drop out of school with only a few courses to complete,” he said, “The Seattle Promise will become their safety net.” Adding, “the end result of the Seattle Promise is a better educated Seattle workforce.” Killpatrick appeared very excited about the entire endeavor, finally stating that “[The Seattle Promise] will be a game changer.”

Varin Keokitvon, FareStart’s Head Chef and an SCCC Culinary graduate, stated that “education is a wonderful gift…my education opened doors for me.” He also said that “as a recipient of scholarships myself I was fortunate to be given a chance.” These same sentiments were also echoed by Najwa Alsheikh.

Najwa Alsheikh speaks to President Paul Killpatrick prior to the start of the event. Photograph by Alexander M. Koch

Najwa Alsheikh speaks to President Paul Killpatrick prior to the start of the event. Photograph by Alexander M. Koch

Najwa Alsheikh, of the Associated Student Council, waxed eloquent about her experiences as a single mother, a student, and someone for whom scholarships have been vitally important in achieving her goals to attend college. She stated, “someone helped me, someone gave me a scholarship to have a chance to go back to school.” Alsheikh also said that “this is people coming together to change lives.”

SCCC Student Marcus Featherston, a student who certainly qualifies on the basis of financial need, had this to say: “What I really think about it is that as institutions seek corporate funding, corporations have a long history of placing their heads and CEOs on the boards of the institution they fund, and therefore push their interest in the long run.” This is a concern shared by at least a handful of other students, but who knows to what extent this belief is held.

Whatever your belief, whether it be hopeful or skeptical regarding the Seattle Promise, there will be $100,000 going to fund student education next year.

What do you think?

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