Campaign Press Release

Seattle Colleges Foundation launches $50 million campaign to increase access, support for students of color

Equity Can’t Wait poised to be one of the nation’s largest-ever campaigns for community colleges. Driven by volunteer leadership including Costco Co-founder Jim Sinegal, UW Regent and former First Lady of Seattle Constance Rice, and emeritus United Way of King County CEO Jon Fine.

Support will: Shore up financially-struggling students | Expand and enhance proven student services | Power innovation in programs and curricula, preparing students for tomorrow’s jobs | Strengthen teaching capacity with modern facilities

SEATTLE, WASH. – March 25, 2021 – Today the Seattle Colleges Foundation announced the launch of Equity Can’t Wait, a $50 million campaign to help Seattle residents access and complete a post-secondary education vital to their individual futures, and the future of the community.

“Lack of access to higher education has disproportionately affected students of color, meaning they are less likely to get the support they need to complete their degree,” said Dr. Shouan Pan, Chancellor of the Seattle Colleges. “As we regroup, collectively, from the past year, we are here for each and every student, embracing our role in creating a more equitable community. From registration through program completion, we are redesigning the learning experience to meet students where they are and take them where they want to go.”

Seattle Colleges — North, South, and Seattle Central — together educate more than 41,000 students each year, including the majority of the city’s residents of color and others who are underserved by higher education. People of color make up 43 percent of enrollees, and 48 percent of students are the first in their family to go to college.

“We’re immensely proud of the tens of thousands of Seattleites who have a degree or certificate from the Seattle Colleges, or who started with us and then transferred to another school,” said Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange, President of Seattle Central College. “These graduates are now part of our dynamic city life, often working in frontline roles like healthcare that are crucial to our community.”

“We are the institutions that employers turn to for skilled hires,” continues Dr. Chemene Crawford, Interim President of North Seattle College. “Seattle Colleges are open-access, meaning places where any and all can pursue a degree or credential, no matter their age or background.”

Among Washington state community and technical colleges, Seattle Colleges have a strong record in getting students successfully through their programs — whether programs leading to an associate’s degree, an apprenticeship, a professional certificate, and even fourteen specialized baccalaureate programs.

“Yet we can and must do better,” says Dr. Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap, President of South Seattle College. “There’s a significant gap in completion rates for students from communities of color who have been historically underserved by higher education. And, that gap directly affects their opportunities in work and life.”

As documented by the Washington Roundtable, while 70 percent of tomorrow’s Seattle-area jobs will require a post-secondary credential, among young adults who are Black, Latinx and Native American, a third or less have such a credential by age 26.

The Equity Can’t Wait campaign is expressly designed to close that gap while assisting in the area’s long-term recovery.  A portion of the funding raised in the campaign will strengthen Seattle Promise, a partnership between Seattle Colleges, the City of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools to provide new high school graduates two years of free tuition and a variety of support services. With funding from a voter-approved levy, the program — championed by Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Council members — launched city-wide in 2018. Topping expectations, this year it enrolled 20 percent of 2020 grads from Seattle public high schools, 62 percent of them young people of color.

“By building on the solid base of support provided by city taxpayers, we can ensure that every Seattle Promise student thrives and goes on to achieve their higher education goal,” states Kerry Howell, Seattle Colleges’ Vice Chancellor for Advancement and CEO of the Seattle Colleges Foundation. “It’s a program that can change the game dramatically.”

Addressing the needs of diverse students and dynamic employers requires constant creativity and adaptation on the part of Seattle Colleges faculty and staff — a challenge they embrace. But also, a challenge for which more resources are needed. Support from Washington state and the tuition of students stretches only so far in a city as expensive as Seattle. Philanthropy could play a larger role; at present, Seattle Colleges are like other community colleges across the country, receiving roughly a penny of every charitable dollar given to higher education, while enrolling more than 40 percent of students in undergraduate programs.

On March 25, leaders from Seattle Colleges and the community will come together to kick off the $50 million Equity Can’t Wait campaign, seeking private support for efforts including:

Additional financial support for students. With family incomes typically ranging from $30,000 to $60,000, Seattle Colleges students struggle in ordinary times, given the city’s cost of living. Now, amid widespread loss of jobs and childcare, many are facing even greater stress. We need a fund that lets us do more to cover students’ full cost of attendance, which goes well beyond tuition and fees.

Strengthened student services. Across the country and at the Seattle Colleges as well, a mounting body of rigorous research shows that the key to student success is caring, personal support from advisors, mentors, tutors and counselors. Students who have the support do dramatically better. We want to further increase support, knowing the investment pays off many-fold.

Continued innovation in programs. These programs include new specialized baccalaureates like Nursing, and short-term “micro-credential” programs for those needing an opportunity to reskill or upskill quickly, and stay marketable in the workforce.

Support of faculty. Instructors and professors are the heart and soul of Seattle Colleges. Investing in their professional development is a way to ensure we attract and retain a group of committed teachers who reflect the needs of our community.

Improvements to facilities. Many of our classrooms are decades old and have rarely or never been updated. Teaching the skills of today and tomorrow in such facilities is challenging, and — given the clear future need for classrooms that can support simultaneous in-person and online classes — near impossible. We must invest.

The Equity Can’t Wait campaign will be led by the Seattle Colleges Foundation’s Board of Directors and an Advisory Council made up of Washington leaders from industries including education, healthcare, government and tech who are all committed to strategic, practical solutions for greater social justice and economic opportunity.

Visit to learn more about Equity Can’t Wait, the Seattle Colleges, and the efforts of the Seattle Colleges Foundation to reach equity within the higher education system.


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About Seattle Colleges Foundation

Seattle Colleges Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit accelerating community support to advance the mission, work and impact of Seattle Colleges.

About Seattle Colleges

Seattle Colleges is Washington state’s largest college district, with more than 41,000 students enrolled each year. It is composed of Seattle Central College, North Seattle College, South Seattle College, and five specialty centers. Seattle Colleges offers more than 130 workforce education and training programs that lead to bachelor’s degrees in high-growth industries, associate degrees in diverse disciplines, certificates in professional-technical programs, and transfer degrees to universities throughout the United States.

Additional Quotes of Support

Since our inception, we have embraced providing financial services that reach people where they’re at and where those services are least available. As a provider of credit, debt and budget counseling, we are excited about the expanded support the Equity Can’t Wait campaign will bring to students. When financial struggle keeps someone from developing their potential, it’s not just that student who loses. We all do.

Cindy Seremek, President, American Financial Solutions

As a member-owned financial cooperative, we understand the connection between the financial health of an individual and their community, and the foundational role that equal access to education plays. This is why BECU was inspired to be one of the first supporters of the Seattle Promise program. Through a seven-year investment, we are committed to the long-term success of the Seattle Colleges and Promise program on behalf of the students in our community.

Benson Porter, President and CEO, BECU

Google is proud to partner with and support the Seattle Colleges Foundation and its mission to support our community's students. Their success is our success as Seattle Community College graduates today can become future Googlers tomorrow.

Ian Goodhew, Director of Government Relations, Google