This week — after two years in the making — Des Moines, Iowa, joined the growing legion of Cities of Promise. Called the “ISU 4U Promise,” it began when Iowa State University President Steven Leath told elementary school students that he would make sure they had an opportunity to earn a college degree.
On Tuesday he formalized that pledge with the announcement that Iowa State would cover up to full tuition for qualifying students from two local schools. MacKenzie Elmer of the Des Moines Register explained:
“Any student enrolled at King or Moulton during the 2013-14 year is eligible for awards. Students must meet attendance and behavior standards; set annual performance goals; maintain a portfolio and submit a letter of interest in attending ISU by the time they finish fifth grade.
“Tuition is granted based on the years of enrollment at the elementary school; one year of attendance equates to 20 percent tuition coverage. Awards increase by 20 percent each year.”
President Leath told the students, “We want smart, determined, motivated people like you to come to Iowa State University, and we promise to have a place for you at Iowa State if you promise to work hard and be the best students you could be.”
School officials hoped that the announcement would provide not only student incentive and motivation, but also encourage families to provide educational stability. The two schools have long had a high rate of mobility. The project lead at Iowa State, Katherine Richardson Bruna, also suggested that teachers provide additional assistance to ensure the opportunity does not slip away from those students and families.
Des Moines will be the first City of Promise in the State of Iowa, though both Newton and Davenport rolled out plans for a program more than six years ago, but found the funding component to difficult to overcome.
Iowa State University is located in Ames, about 30 miles north of Des Moines.