‘Oakland Promise’ Scholarship And Tuition Saving Program Off To A Good Start

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said Wednesday that the first year of an ambitious effort to triple the number of low-income college graduates coming out of the city’s public schools has been successful but there’s still a lot of work to do.

In a brief interview before the presentation of a progress report on the “Oakland Promise” program at a community meeting at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in West Oakland, Schaaf said, “It’s amazing what you can do in one year when you build community with partners who know how to get things done.”

Schaaf said that after the program was launched a year ago Wednesday, 300 Oakland public school graduates have been sent to college with $2.5 million in scholarships and persistence support.

“We want to make sure the students get monitoring because we want to make sure they get through college,” Schaaf said.

In the first year of the program, scholarships of $100 each were awarded to 1,250 low-income public school kindergarten students and the goal in the second year is to award such scholarships to 5,000 students, the mayor said.

There’s also a goal to award $500 college savings accounts to 500 families this year, Schaaf said.

“This community knows we’re making an investment in their future,” Schaaf said.

The mayor launched the Oakland Promise program because currently only about 10 percent of Oakland public school students who start ninth grade go on to college and complete college within five years of graduating from high school.

Schaaf said, “We’re starting from a low level and we have a lot of work to do and there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

The goal ten years from now, she said, is to triple the number of high school students who graduate to a career of their choice.

At the community meeting, which had a pep-rally atmosphere and was attended by several hundred people, including community leaders, elected officials and students, Martin Luther King Jr. principal Roma Groves-Waters said that because of Oakland Promise, “Every kid will know they can go on to college.”

Oakland school board president James Harris said, “This is the kind of vision we have to embrace as a city.”

Harris said, “We need to put in place a bold vision” because the current low percentage of public school students who go on to graduate from college is “unacceptable.”

David Silver, Oakland’s Director of Education, said, “We need to transform Oakland to a place where graduation from college is an expectation for all kids throughout the city.”

Silver said the goal is for the program to grow every year so that in 10 years 10,000 college savings accounts will be opened for newborns, 6,000 families will receive financial coaching and up to $500 in financial assistance, 3,000 students will get multi-year scholarships, 22,000 students will be enrolled in college and $20 million in scholarships will be awarded.

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