Sharon Wall

SHARON WALL

Post-secondary education enhances quality of life beyond securing better jobs, though that foundation is essential to other benefits. A community that values learning sees improvements far and wide.

“This is the most exciting initiative I’ve seen in a long time, a testimonial to this community’s belief in preparing youth for a better Greenwood. -- Sharon Wall

Greenwood Promise is a tuition-free path for Greenwood County students to attain post-secondary education without the crushing burden of student debt. Local benefits extend far beyond enhanced lives for individuals, however, because the entire community benefits by:

-- School enrollment increasing.

-- K-12 students performing better on standardized tests.

-- Dropout rates falling.

-- Graduation rates rising.

-- More graduates pursuing post-secondary education.

-- More workers skilled and educated for high-demand jobs.

-- Employers placing employees in hard-to-fill jobs.

-- Home values rising as family incomes rise and families relocate, taking advantage of the Promise.

-- Rising incomes and home values and increased population building our tax base.

-- Greenwood County becoming known as a community actively engaged in education.

Other communities with Promise programs already have impressive school improvements:

-- Kalamazoo, Michigan, increased new students’ enrollment from families moving to the district and decreased students dropping out. From 2005-14, public school enrollment rose by 24 percent.

-- The El Dorado, Arkansas, Promise improved more than 10 percent in math and literacy scores. Five years after the 2005 program launch, third-grade students had “significantly higher” scores on Arkansas Benchmark tests.

-- The Kalamazoo Promise saw third- through sixth-grade math and literacy scores increase.

-- The New Haven, Connecticut, Promise saw a “significant” impact in third- through eighth-grade math and reading.

-- In El Dorado, from 2008 to 2015 college-bound high schoolers increased from 65 percent to 90 percent.

-- New Haven’s post-secondary enrollment increased 6.9 percent.

-- From 2008-13, in Kalamazoo, black male dropouts declined from 29 percent to 20 percent. The Michigan average was 23 percent.

-- Within a few years, the El Dorado Promise dropout rate fell from 8 percent to 1 percent.

Some promise programs link to workforce alignment initiatives, creating pipelines for high-demand, hard-to-fill jobs. The Greenwood Promise fosters internships with local businesses, decreasing the number of our children leaving Greenwood for jobs elsewhere.

An Upjohn Institute study discovered eight communities, within three years of program launch, experiencing population increases of 2.7 percent, with a 6.0 percent increase in households with children. Rising incomes and growing populations improve home values. The National Bureau of Economic Research found eight communities with Promise program announcements experienced 6-12 percent home value increases. Such results produce increased tax bases.

“An increased tax base from improved home values is welcome for everyone, but especially for Ware Shoals, with South Carolina’s third lowest assessed value per pupil.” -- Fay Sprouse

Another study estimated the Promise impact on state revenues, including cost of incarceration, Medicaid savings, and increased property and income tax revenues. South Carolina’s average increased revenue for each additional degree (certificate, associate and bachelor’s) by $2,100 per year, every year. Post-secondary education investment pays.

The Greenwood Promise affirms our aim to foster a community actively engaged in education. Ware Shoals, Ninety Six and Greenwood school districts appreciate your support of the Greenwood Promise. Living in a community where leaders recognize the benefits and impact of education is a blessing.

“The Greenwood Promise is an exciting initiative, a game changer for our community, one which breaks down financial barriers, giving students an opportunity to succeed in college. This initiative opens the door for all county high school graduates to become college and career ready -- and then some!” -- Darrell Johnson

Sharon Wall is interim superintendent at District 52, Fay Sprouse is superintendent at District 51 and Darrell Johnson is superintendent at District 50.