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Mayor Durkan signs executive order creating free community college for Seattle graduates

On Wednesday Mayor Jenny Durkan  signed an Executive Order creating the Seattle Promise College Tuition Program. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - Less than 24 hours into her new job, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has committed the city to funding tens of millions of dollars to keep two campaign promises.

On Wednesday she signed an Executive Order creating the Seattle Promise College Tuition Program.

It will provide two full years (90 credits) of courses at any of the state’s community colleges for any student, regardless of income or citizenship, who graduates from a Seattle public high school.

During the campaign, Durkan staffers estimated it would cost the city $4.5 million in 2018, and $7 million annually thereafter if 25 percent of the graduates accept the tuition offer.

The average tuition cost is nearly $4,000 per year. The program would begin in the fall of 2018.

The Seattle Promise College Tuition Program will be modeled on the 13th Year Promise Scholarship Program currently offered to 12th grade students at Cleveland, Chief Sealth, and Rainier Beach High Schools.

Just how the program will be funded has not yet been secured.

The order calls for an “interdepartmental team to identify existing resources and funding sources, including federal state and regional funds, the Families and Education Levy and Seattle Preschool Program Levy renewal, the Seattle Public school local levy renewal and philanthropic resources to fund the program."

They are to report back to the Mayor by March 8.

Just hours after she was officially sworn in on Tuesday, Durkan signed an executive order creating a Seattle Rental Housing Assistance Program. It will provide a system where low-income families can apply for rent vouchers and subsides to assist in rent payments.

Families with income ranges between 30 percent and 50 percent of Seattle’s median income (AMI) would be eligible. If eligible, households will be expedited into the Utility Discount Program and could receive up to half the difference of the rent they are eligible to afford and their actual rent.

The order calls for the pilot program to begin its development in January.

During the campaign, Durkan staffers said the program could cost $60 million when it gets up to speed and assisting with rent payments for nearly 24,000 individuals.

When asked where all the money will come from to pay for these new initiatives, Durkan told KOMO News there is money available without the need for new taxes.

“The great thing about all the programs is we've identified within the budget different places where we could get it,” said Durkan. “It’s reality, it's not just an idea, we are going to get it done.”

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