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Drive to sign up low-income kids for College Bound Scholarship

Gary Davis
Renton High School students working on a recent edition of the student newspaper Arrow. A push is underway to sign up students in Renton and other South King County districts for the College Bound Scholarship

A lot of low-income kids are missing out on Washington's offer to pay their way through college. In South King County, a new campaign is underway to change that. 

The effort is focused on kids who live between Seattle’s central district and Auburn. Only 27-percent of them go on to get a college degree or technical certificate.

Families say money is one of the biggest barriers. That's why the state set up the College Bound Scholarship to take care of tuition for low income students. All they have to do is get a 2.0 grade point average and stay out of trouble with the law. Yet just over a-third of kids who qualify in the South King County area had signed up as of December. 

Mary Jean Ryan, Executive Director of the Community Center for Education Results, says a lot of students don't know about the opportunity and their schools might not know how to get the word out:

“For a lot of the districts, and individual schools, they had not made this a priority in the past. So, we’re really trying to elevate it as a priority and get them the help they need."

Ryan organizes the Road Map Project that works on closing the achievement gap in South King County. One of the ways it plans to do that is by getting all eligible 8th graders signed up for the College Bound Scholarship by the end of June. Ryan says that’s possible by getting people that work with families to collaborate and then share best practices. 

She points to a few strategies that have made a big difference:

  • The Seattle Housing Authority recently sent letters to its families about the scholarship.
  • Seattle University “adopted” a school for a scholarship drive. 
  • The Washington Education Association is getting the word out to teachers and other members who work with eligible students.
  • Highline has given out t-shirts to students who return completed sign up forms.

Ryan says those ideas could help schools in Renton and Auburn. Less than a-third of students have signed up for the scholarship in those districts. 
The Road Map Project will monitor progress every couple weeks and pay close attention to schools with the lowest results. It plans to launch similar efforts in the areas of kindergarten readiness, 3rd grade reading, and math, soon.

Students may apply for the College Bound Scholarship online at:


Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.
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