Long Beach College Promise Is a Model for Increasing the College Pipeline on a Local Level

September 1, 2016

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New ACE member Long Beach City College (LBCC) is at the forefront of a nationally recognized initiative to prepare and send the city’s students to college.

The Long Beach College Promise, established in 2008, has worked to develop a path to college for area students through an innovative, award-winning partnership among Long Beach’s public school district, community college, state university and city government.

The initiative provides incentives, services and support—and attempts to remove barriers—throughout a student’s preK-12 education, all focused on higher education access and attainment. The services include college visits and college planning for elementary and middle school students in the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD), tuition-free semesters at LBCC, preferred admission to Long Beach State University, and professional work experience through internships.

The leaders of the Long Beach College Promise, including Long Beach City College President-Superintendent Eloy Ortiz Oakley (left), give updates on the progress of the initiative. U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell (center) attended the event and provided remarks.
Photo courtesy of Long Beach City College.

The results? As of 2015, 75 percent of LBUSD graduates are attending college within one year; 80 percent within two. A recent profile in The Hechinger Report notes that these successes—which also include improved test scores, higher AP-class enrollment, and increased high-school graduation rates—come even as the city’s “challenging demographics remained almost unaltered.”

A significant part of the initiative is free tuition for qualified LBUSD graduates, which was expanded last spring to cover a full academic year. Nearly 12,000 students have received one free semester at LBCC since 2008. President Obama has cited the initiative as a model for his tuition-free community college proposal, America’s College Promise.

State lawmakers are now trying to expand the highly successful initiative with the newly approved “California College Promise” program. The collection of bills is designed to make several of Long Beach’s practices into state policy to support more California students attend and graduate from college.

At a Glance

ACE Member: Long Beach City College

Program: Long Beach College Promise


  • State of California Award for Innovation in Higher Education (2015)
  • The Clinton Global Initiative Commitments to Action recognition (2015)
  • U.S. Conference of Mayors/USA Fund National Pathways with a Purpose Initiative, 1st Place Honors (2015)
  • Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) award from the National Institutions of Health, a $22.7 million grant to establish a research program that prepares underrepresented students for doctoral programs in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. (2014)
  • James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award (2014)


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