Free first-year college tuition available for Rainier Beach seniors

SEATTLE -- Free first-year college tuition is an offer now available to any senior at Seattle's Rainier Beach High School student who wants it.

The "13th Year" program as it's called began in 2008 and has been successful at Cleveland and Chief Sealth High Schools. Now it's adding Rainier Beach.

Taylor Allen's friends are excited for her. After this senior year, she's going to college with free tuition.

"I'm ready! I want to go! I just want to do this," she says. "I think it's a great opportunity. I think everybody should sign up and just do it."

She'll be going to South Seattle Community College in September hoping to become a history teacher. The "13th year" program pays first-year tuition from private donations. No tax dollars.

"It's important because it allows every high school student to think of themselves as a college student," says SCCC Associate Vice President Elizabeth Pluhta.

She says half the students in the program would not have gone to college at all. And those in the program are more likely than regular students to re-enroll even without the free tuition.

"So it's great to know we're helping students who otherwise would not have gone to college, get a higher education," Pluhta said.

Any graduating senior at Rainier Beach High School can get the free tuition to South Seattle Community College. It's based only on desire.

"Wow. Somebody's helping me," says Allen. "I can do this. I can go to college."

The three schools were selected because they're near South Seattle Community College. A fourth high school, possibly West Seattle, could be added soon.

SCCC is taking donations for the "13th Year" fund from all sources; individual, corporate, foundation and more.