In 2014, Harper College, working in partnership with three large suburban and diverse school districts, committed to implement a national demonstration program, The Promise Program, to incentivize a path to workforce and post-secondary readiness for all students in these schools. The Promise Program will commit to providing full 'last dollar' tuition payments to each of these students who commit to the program as ninth graders and consistently (over the next four years and the first four semesters at Harper) meet specific measures in attendance, rigor, persistence, quality, and service to the community.
These measures are not onerous and include attendance at 95%, quality (C's or better in all courses), persistence (graduating 'on-time'), rigor, graduating 'post-secondary' ready (i.e. No remedial courses needed in post-secondary), and service (30 - 50 hours of service each year to the community). Each year, approximately 7,000 students receive diplomas from the school districts. Over 39% of these students attend Harper the next fall.
The Harper Promise program is designed to address all of these concerns at a regional level by providing a set of standard criteria for all district high school students which allows them to earn up to 60 tuition free hours at Harper College. This commitment involves partnering with three sender district high schools to support students and monitor individual student outcomes against the Promise criteria. The initiative involves building a network of regional businesses that will commit to interviewing, providing workplace based experiences, engaging in the classroom, advising on workforce readiness skills requirements, and hiring and/or donating to the program. The Harper Promise program will also consist of engagement with district grade schools and middle schools that have over 50% free and reduced lunch students to ensure a college attendance mentality is developed for the students and their families. While raising million from regional residents and businesses to support the program, the Harper Promise commitment is focused on providing incentives for high school students to develop behaviors that ensure workforce and college readiness. Ultimately, this will result in a stronger workforce, sustained economic viability, and stable middle class earning family-sustaining wages in the region.
million dollars will be needed to endow this program. million is in-hand. Over the next five years, the Districts will raise the rest privately via a fund-raising campaign. Quarterly reports will be made to the community.
In fall of 2015, the first student cohort of ninth graders will be offered the Promise Program. They will have the fall semester of 2015 to learn about the program and make a commitment before the spring semester begins. The Program will launch officially in January 2016 for those students and the measures will take effect beginning then (these students, and subsequent cohorts will not be held accountable for the ninth grade first semester outcomes as this is identified as a 'grace' period to give all students an opportunity to learn how easy, or difficult it will be for them to meet these benchmarks). In any subsequent semester during the high school years, students failing to meet the benchmarks will be ineligible for the scholarships. At the end of each semester, a report to the community will share the number of students 'on track' to earn the scholarship.
Businesses will be recruited who wish to interview, and possibly hire Harper College 'promise' graduates. Badges will be issued to the students who earn Program scholarships. These badges will signify to the business partners that they are talking to an individual who has a history of working hard, showing up, working at a level of quality and finishing the job. The employer will also know that this individual is 'community-minded' and gives back.
Post-secondary education is becoming increasingly inaccessible to thousands of American families and their children due to cost. This is ironic as never before in American history has the acquisition of a self and family-sustaining job been more dependent on a post-secondary credential. This situation is made all the more tragic when one considers American employers are unable to find qualified workers to fill millions of job vacancies. The community college has a long history of supporting the educational and personal development needs of the community that it serves.
William Rainey Harper College is a comprehensive community college in Palatine, Illinois, and was named in honor of the founder of the community college movement. Harper offers more than 50 transfer options, allowing students to earn their associate degree before transferring to a four-year college or university to complete their bachelor's degree. The college also offers more than 40 career programs which grant an associate degree or certificate and provide the skills necessary to enter the work force. These programs range in length from 16 weeks to two years. All courses, educational programs, counseling services, and distance learning programs are fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of College and Secondary Schools.