‘West Sacramento Promise’ hopes to give free first-year college tuition for local grads

CHRISTOPHER CABALDON, Mayor of West Sacramento. (News-Ledger file photo, 2013).

CHRISTOPHER CABALDON, Mayor of West Sacramento. (News-Ledger file photo, 2013).


By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

What if local high school graduates knew that if they took the proper courses, they would be guaranteed a place in the local community college – and their first-year tuition would be free?

That’s the premise of the “West Sacramento Promise,” a plan being developed by the West Sacramento Foundation and Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.

If successful, the local version of the “Promise” would follow in the footsteps of programs set up in other cities, where local governments or philanthropists chip in to start a college savings account for young kids in the school district or to otherwise subsidize college costs. Most famous is the “Kalamazoo Promise,” where donors in that Michigan city guarantee to cover college costs in the state’s public education system for high school graduates who earn acceptance.

Cabaldon mentioned the “West Sacramento Promise” idea during his “State of the City” address last month. Yesterday, he talked to the News-Ledger about it in a little more detail.

“It’s part of the ‘Future Ready’ program I’m doing with the West Sacramento Foundation,” said the mayor. “It’s essentially a trust fund to support a variety of initiatives that help youth become more college- and career-ready.”

“The (West Sacramento Promise) concept comes from Long Beach,” he added. “It’s basically a partnership between the schools, local community college and the students.”

“If you graduate from River City High or the West Sacramento Early College Prep school, and you, as a student, have done all the right things, then you know you will have a place at the community college,” stated Cabaldon. “And what they’ve done in Long Beach is that they have used funds to pay (the student’s) tuition for the first year at community college.”

If successful, said Cabaldon, the new program here would address several big problems that discourage local students from entering college, or finishing degree program:

One is that the program would require participating students to complete the “A-G curriculum” college-prep track at the high school. They’d also have to rack up some college-level credits while in high school. Students could do that either by completing some “advance placement” courses in high school or by jointly enrolling in some community college courses while in high school. This would make local grads better prepared for college, said Cabaldon.

“Something like 70 to 80 percent of the students we send to community college now need remedial courses,” Cabaldon said. “This makes them less likely to complete their degrees or certificates.”

The “Promise” would also ensure that the local community college will hold a place for West Sacramento grads – giving them preferred enrollment.

And it would reassure them that the first year of tuition in that college will be free. Tuition in the Sacramento City College system runs $46 per unit, and a full-time student takes a minimum of 24 units a year.  While a lot of lower-income students already qualify for a fee-reduction waiver, they often don’t know it, said Cabaldon. The “Promise” would make it simple, at least for the first year.

“We’d be saying, ‘you’re not going to pay,’” he stated. “You are either going to get a fee waiver, or we’re paying, but you’re not going to pay.”

The “West Sacramento Promise” is still in its formative stages, said the mayor, and it’s being developed in tandem with a similar initiative in Sacramento.

How much will it cost?

Cabaldon said he doesn’t have an estimate, but he believes it will cost less than $500,000 per year to fund.  The first big project to raise seed money is a “GearUp” bicycle ride planned for October 12. Basic details of the ride are at www.gearup4youth.com.

Cabaldon said he doesn’t have an estimate, but he believes it will cost less than $500,000 per year to fund.  The first big project to raise seed money is a “GearUp” bicycle ride planned for October 12. Details of the “Future Ready” program in West Sacramento can be found on FaceBook, said the mayor.

The West Sacramento Foundation is at www.westsacfoundation.org.

  On February 13, The News-Ledger published an editorial on a related subject. The News-Ledger suggested a new effort to create a $50 college savings account for every local kindergartner. You can find that editorial here.


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