Mayor Durkan signs executive order to create free college program for Seattle

With under 24 hours in office, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the creation of a city program that makes community college free for high school graduates in Seattle.

"We want to make sure our graduates know, they can go to college. I will be signing an executive order today to make that promise real," she said on Wednesday.

The Seattle Promise College Tuition program aims to reduce and remove the financial barriers that keep some Seattle public high school graduates from earning a degree, credential or certificate.

While on the campaign trail, Durkan unveiled part of her plan. She wants the city to pay for high school students to go to community and technical colleges for two years.

KIRO 7 News talked to Durkan before the election about her plan.

"Almost one of three kids of color don't go to college at all and we want to really change that dynamic," Durkan told KIRO 7.

Durkan's proposal would build on a smaller program already providing scholarships. She estimates it would cost less than $5 million the first year, and $7 million the second -- with no new taxes needed.

"That's the beauty of this program is we can afford it today, Durkan said. "We have a $5.2 billion budget in the city of Seattle. We need less than this amount of money to make sure every kid has this opportunity. We've identified a number of areas that we think it can be taken from."

Durkan said Seattle's new soda tax is one possibility. Another option is a $518 million fund for education coming from Sound Transit.

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