El Dorado Promise Marks Fourth Anniversary

January 21, 2011

On January 22, 2007, residents of El Dorado, Arkansas learned that a unique initiative called The El Dorado Promise would allow graduates of El Dorado Public Schools the opportunity to earn college degrees tuition-free as a result of a $50 million commitment by Murphy Oil Corporation to El Dorado’s greatest resource – its children.

Now, four years later, the impact has been seen in several ways.  For decades, El Dorado schools faced a slow, but steady decline in enrollment much the same as other communities throughout the South due to the loss of traditional industry.  

“Nothing short of a bold initiative, which came in the form of the Promise, could reverse this trend,” said Bob Watson, Superintendent of El Dorado Public Schools.   

Since the Promise was announced, enrollment in the El Dorado School District has increased by five percent to 4,646 students, while enrollment in ten surrounding school districts has continued to decline. 

“In addition to the increase in enrollment, we have seen the atmosphere change as students, parents and teachers have embraced a college-bound culture,” Watson said. “From Kindergarten, El Dorado students are introduced to the concept of college. They are encouraged to dream big, work hard in school, and know that college can be a part of their future.”  

More El Dorado students are going to college than ever before, and thanks to an increased focus on college readiness, more students are taking Advanced Placement classes and other rigorous courses in high school. The prospect of an increasingly educated workforce gives economic development leaders new tools to attract businesses to the region.  

By 2018, more than 60% of all new jobs will require a college education.  According to the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, 26 percent of young adults (ages 25-34) in Arkansas have an associate’s degree or higher, compared to 38 percent nationwide. 

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe has called for doubling the number of college graduates in the state by 2025. 

“We know that a big component in increasing the number of college graduates in Arkansas is overcoming financial barriers,” Governor Mike Beebe said. “The El Dorado Promise has shown how a community can help remove those barriers so that students are able to pursue college degrees and realize their dreams.”  

Since 2007, 780 El Dorado graduates – 80 percent of those eligible for the Promise – have attended college using the scholarship.  This exceeds both the state and national enrollment rates.   

The El Dorado Promise pays tuition and mandatory fees for all students who graduate from El Dorado High School, reside in the district, and have been an El Dorado Public School student since at least the ninth grade.  El Dorado Promise students can attend any accredited two or four-year college or university in the U. S.  The maximum amount of the Promise scholarship is based on the maximum resident tuition payable at an Arkansas public university.  In 2010-2011, the highest tuition rate in the state was $6,908 per year. 

For additional information and the latest report, visit www.eldoradopromise.com.

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