OC’s Promise: free year of college for area high school graduates

When the program is fully funded, qualifying students will receive a free year of college at OC.

BREMERTON — Olympic College has a promise: local high school graduates who meet the basic qualifications will be eligible for a free year of college at OC after the program is funded.

The scholarship program has raised $3 million for its $5 million campaign, and it is now entering its public phase. When it is fully funded — which David Emmons, executive director of the Olympic College Foundation said will be in another two or three years from now — students will begin to be offered a free year of education at Olympic College.

According to a fact sheet about the OC Promise program, it will be three to four years before the first OC Promise scholarship is offered.

Emmons said the program will start with Bremerton High School students when they reach their funding goal. After that, they will “immediately start fundraising” to expand where this will be offered. The intention of the program is to enable graduating students from all high schools in Kitsap and Mason counties to receive a free year of college at OC.

“We see a need in this area to help students continue their education,” Emmons said.

“We see that 40 percent of those that graduate from Bremerton High School are not going on for further education, when all of the economists say that in the next five years, (more than) 60 percent of the jobs that are out there need a college education, whether professional/technical or a four-year degree.

“We need to do a better job,” he said. “This is a way for us to help those students at least start their education.”

(According to a study by Georgetown University, 65 percent of jobs will require post-secondary education and training beyond high school by 2020, according to the OC Promise fact sheet.)

Once enrolled at OC, Emmons said they would work with students to help them apply for existing scholarships and tuition-aid programs to help with the remaining years of education.

To qualify, the students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and apply for traditional financial aid; participate in an extracurricular activity in high school, and graduate with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Emmons said that students meeting these basic requirements will be able to take advantage of the offer, not just a hand-picked few.

Furthermore, the program will fund not only students intending to move on to earn four-year degrees but also students who are aiming for a professional/technical degree.

“When you say you are going to college, most people think you’re going to UW for a four-year degree,” Emmons said.

“What we want to (fund) is getting the education you need to get the job you want. For many … students, it is a professional/technical degree. It will pay for both.”

Moving forward, Emmons said the foundation is meeting with members of the community who may help fund this program. A group of community volunteers is also helping raise funds. Also, unlike other scholarships offered by the foundation, which Emmons said need an endowment of $25,000 to be paid out over five years, all donations for OC Promise will go into the fund.

“People can give at whatever they feel comfortable with to fund this program,” he said. “We may get … a $55,000 gift, but then we can receive other gifts. You can give $100, $500, etc. It’s a community effort to fund these scholarships.”

To learn more about how to donate, contact Emmons at 360-475-7210 or demmons@olympic.edu.

OC Promise is modeled after a similar program at South Seattle College, called 13th Year Scholarship, which began in 2008. Since then, 500 students have enrolled through the program, according to the OC Promise fact sheet.

Half of those students said they would not have attended college if not for the 13th Year Scholarship program, which Emmons said has encouraged more low-income students and students of color to aspire to higher education.

To read more about the program and its fundraising efforts, visit goo.gl/BAkGgo.

Michelle Beahm is the online editor for the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpublishing.com.

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