Seattle’s tuition-free community college program comes to the rescue during the pandemic

Joy Resmovits, The Seattle Times on

Published in Lifestyles

“The only time I talked in English was at school. My English wasn’t perfect until 7th or 8th grade,” said the first-year student at Seattle Central College. “I started to get better. Sometimes I do have trouble speaking English, but I try my best.”

Franco Fierro’s parents didn’t go to college. Early on in her time at Nathan Hale High School, she knew she wanted to continue her education, but was scared off by the price tag. The Seattle Promise specialist at her school suggested she apply — all she had to do was graduate.

She got into other schools, but ultimately chose to start at Seattle Central — for financial reasons, and so she could spend more time with her mom.

She experienced the victory of a successful go at college admissions, followed by the letdown of learning that the experience would move from the campus to the cloud.

But to her surprise, she said, “It’s going great.” The best part, she said, is her “wonderful” teachers. She worried that they wouldn’t understand her. But after her first day, she took up one instructor on their offer to talk one on one. “I told her a little bit about me, and how my English was sometimes not perfect,” she said. She was told not to worry. We’re here to help you out.

Other students feel that support, too. Patrick Mungai, a second-year student at Seattle Central College, plans to transfer to pursue his commercial pilot license. He credits his career path to the Seattle Promise specialist assigned to assist him, who asked questions like “When you were younger, were you curious about airplanes?”


Still, Mungai, who is from Kenya, said he struggles with online learning. “The teachers don’t always explain too much online,” he said. “That’s a big problem for me.”

And the temptation for procrastination, he said, is stronger at home.

Adapting to all-online college

When the pandemic suddenly forced schools online, community college administrators delayed the start of spring classes to buy an extra week of planning.


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