College opportunities expand with UW Tacoma partnership
College opportunities expand with UW Tacoma partnership
Posted on 06/24/2015

With her career sights set on becoming a high school art teacher, Rogers High School senior Alexx Elder said she can’t wait to begin pursuing her college education this fall at the University of Washington (UW) Tacoma campus.


“I’ve always wanted to go to UW, but I didn’t know if it would ever be possible,” she said.


That all changed this year when Elder learned she is among more than 50 graduating seniors in Puyallup who met admission requirements necessary to receive automatic acceptance to UW Tacoma.


The automatic acceptance is a key feature of a “Pathway to Promise” partnership started two years ago between the Puyallup School District and the university. It marked the first such partnership in Washington and only the second of its kind nationwide.


The first wave of high school seniors who benefitted from the partnership graduated last June, while others are set to earn their high school diplomas this month.


The Puyallup School Board formally approved the partnership in October 2013, and within months nearly 100 seniors had applied to UW Tacoma — up from 38 applicants in 2006, as well as the most students to apply for college there in each of the past nine years.


The number of applicants continues to remain strong this year, with an equally impressive list of acceptance offers at all of the district’s high schools, said Gerald Denman, chief equity and achievement officer.


While students are often accepted to numerous colleges or universities in their senior year, it is notable that nearly half of those accepted to UW Tacoma last year also enrolled there, he said.


The success of the partnership is even more striking, he said, when considering the number of students who applied to universities elsewhere around the country simply because they learned through Pathway to Promise that college is doable.


“The whole idea is to expand post-secondary educational opportunities,” Denman said. “We want to create more access to college for our students.”


Cedric Howard, vice chancellor for student and enrollment services at UW Tacoma, said he also is pleased with the first two years of the partnership.


“The growth of the partnership between UW Tacoma and the Puyallup School District speaks to the nature and power of building a college-going culture in Puyallup,” he said. “It also speaks to the need to educate and prepare clear pathways for youth to take in order to ultimately achieve their goals in life.”


Pathway to Promise addresses the fact that some students, even those with good grades and test scores, often don’t have college on their radar because of cost alone.


In an effort to help make a student’s college dream a reality, the university recently announced that 24 of Puyallup’s graduating seniors have been named Freshman Merit scholarship award recipients. The students have been awarded $73,500 combined from Emerald Ridge, Puyallup, and Rogers high schools.


The two-year scholarship award varies between $2,000 and $5,000 per year.


Elder, the Rogers High senior who begins UW Tacoma this fall, is one of the two dozen scholarship recipients and also received a two-year academic scholarship.


“It’s going to help with tuition and other college costs,” she said. The freshman plans to keep college costs down by living at home in Puyallup and taking the SoundTransit Sounder Train to and from school.


To be considered for automatic admission to UW Tacoma, students need to meet criteria including a 2.7 or higher grade point average, SAT scores of 480 or higher in each section and an ACT score of 21 or higher, basic graduation requirements, and a well-written admission letter.


Pathway to Promise is just one of many ways the Puyallup School District is encouraging post-high school education.


The district prepares students for life beyond high school through the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) classes, College Bound Scholarship program, Elizabeth Wesley Youth Merit Incentive Award program, No Excuses University, and annual post-high school planning nights and school career fairs.