College Promise Resources

The College Promise movement aims to make two years of community college education as universally available to all Americans as K-12 education. 

In 1947, a special commission delivered a report, "Higher Education for American Democracy," to President Harry S. Truman. The report emphasized the necessity of incorporating vocational education into American higher education and stated that all Americans should have the opportunity to complete two years of post-high-school higher education at no cost as an extension of the American public K-12 school system. The College Promise movement is an effort to fulfill this never-realized vision—to keep the college promise.  

In 2015, the America's College Promise proposal made by President Barack Obama reignited interest, this led to the introduction of America’s College Promise Act of 2015 by Rep. Bobby Scott and Sen. Tammy Baldwin. To encourage and help coordinate the movement, an independent, nonpartisan College Promise Campaign was founded by former U.S. Under Secretary of Education Dr. Martha J. Kanter that same year. Over the past couple of years, the movement gained significant national momentum. America's College Promise Act has been reintroduced in every Congress since 2015, with Senator Patty Murray, Senator Tammy Baldwin, Representative Bobby Scott, and Representative Andy Levin introducing the latest iteration in 2021.  

Outside the halls of Congress, the majority of Americans agree. A recent Morning Consult survey found that 59% of Americans favor free community college. Employers report a growing demand for "middle skills" workers, with jobs available to be filled but no qualified employees to fill those jobs. Many higher education and thought leaders, including the Pew Research Center, have stated that college promise would help to fix the skills gap.  

President Joe Biden made headlines when he included free community college in his landmark Build Back Better agenda-though the provision ultimately failed to gain adequate support. Despite the absence of a federal program, state and local level College Promise programs have been expanding rapidly throughout the country, with New Mexico recently establishing the most extensive tuition-free scholarship program in the country. Currently, there are 362 Promise programs nationwide, which includes 33 states plus Washington, DC with statewide programs. There are only two hold-out states, Idaho and Mississippi, which do not have any type of promise program. 

ACCT in partnership with the Campaign and with the American Association of Community Colleges created a College Promise Campaign toolkit for community college board members and presidents who are interested in advancing the movement.  

ACCT encourages community college boards, CEOs and other leaders to learn about the college promise movement and to consider whether a promise program is right for your students. Here, we introduce you to several different program designs and a wide variety of funding models, answer some of the most asked questions, and link you to resources from other leading organizations such as the College Promise Campaign. 


If your college is involved in the College Promise movement and would like to share experiences and resources with ACCT and our membership via our website, ACCT Now or Trustee Quarterly magazine, contact David Conner.