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California Program (and App) Dangles Promise of College for Central Valley Students

A state university in the central valley of California has kicked into high gear an initiative intended to help young people in the area consider college as a viable option after high school. Starting in 2018 the "Central Valley Promise" will allow students to attend a semester of community college for free and to gain guaranteed admission to the university. But to earn that, students and their families need to commit to certain activities, which are tracked through an app that awards badges and other kinds of prizes for completion.

The program is a partnership between California State University, Fresno and regional community colleges and K–12 school districts. The program will initially encompass students in five central San Joaquin Valley school districts; additional districts will be folded into the program in phases. The funding will be covered by participating institutions.

A similar program was launched in Long Beach in 2008, among other locations in the state. Since then, said university officials, more than three-quarters of seniors there who have followed the pathway have enrolled in college, with an overall six-year graduation rate of 67 percent. College promise programs have grown in popularity across the country. According to reporting by the Fresno Bee, 150 cities have similar programs in place.

To receive the free college benefit in the central valley, participants must take a pledge related to preparing for college. That pledge can be taken as early as middle school. Commitments include attending college fairs, visiting college campuses, applying for FAFSA or DACA and regularly meeting with school counselors. The app, currently unavailable, will remind students of their pledge, offer links to resources and scholarship opportunities and notify students and families of deadlines tied to college-admission requirements.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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