More Baton Rouge area students are attending college or taking college-level dual enrollment courses, key planks of the Capital Area Promise, an initiative launched last September to create more college and career pathways for students in the Capital region, Baton Rouge education leaders said Wednesday.

“We want to see this grow. We have a long way to go,” said LSU President F. King Alexander.

King was joined Wednesday by leaders of Southern University, Baton Rouge Community College and East Baton Rouge Parish school system. Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome sent Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Pamela Ravare-Jones in her stead, as the leaders issued a report card along with a narrative detailing progress toward 10 goals agreed to a year ago.

Seven of the goals focus on boosting college attendance. The first and third goals, insisted on by Broome, focus on early childhood education and summer employment programs. The last goal, pushed by the parish school system, focuses on expanding college-based efforts to train teachers and school leaders.

The new report card is incomplete. Some measures show one year of data, while others include multiple years. In a couple instances, data has yet to be released. Organizers say next year’s report card will be more informative.

Watch the full press conference by clicking here

The report card includes new targets for each goal, some calling for general improvement, others laying out specific improvements to reach.

Alexander and Southern University President-Chancellor Ray Belton said they are already seeing promising signs. They point to large freshman classes this year and strong growth in their dual enrollment programs with local high schools.

Alexander said this year’s freshman class at LSU is not only substantially larger than last year's, but the number of students from the nine-parish Baton Rouge region increased by 16 percent.

Belton said he hopes the work Southern is doing with other partners in the Capital Area Promise will continue these trends.

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“It’s really enabled us to fulfill our role and responsibility to this city and to this region,” Belton said.

Alexander began the effort by teaming up in 2016 with parish schools Superintendent Warren Drake to bring 2,600 sixth-graders a year from the school system to the LSU campus for campus tours. Four classes of sixth-graders have visited LSU since the annual tours started.

“They consumed 226 gallons of ice cream from the LSU Dairy,” Alexander joked.

LSU is planning to bring students from some Baton Rouge charter schools on the next round of tours and is in talks with three suburban school districts about doing the same for their sixth-graders.

In October, Southern University and Baton Rouge Community College are planning their own campus visits, Southern handling seventh-graders, BRCC eight-graders.

Drake said college visits open the eyes of students, many of whom have never set foot on a college campus.

Capital Area Promise is modeled on Long Beach College Promise, an initiative Alexander undertook at his previous job as president of California State University, Long Beach. That was a far-reaching partnership with the Long Beach Unified School District that, among other things, provided for a tuition-free semester at the Cal State campus.

Capital Area Promise is less generous — it’s highlighting existing ways students can get admitted to and help pay for local colleges and universities — but it’s also broader, focusing not just on higher education.

Alexander said the big difference between Baton Rouge and Long Beach is that the business community there had a central role, funding $1,000 scholarships for participating students. He said in Baton Rouge this initiative has “flown under the radar” but he’d like to change that.

“We have the public sector, what we’re missing is the private sector,” he said.

Email Charles Lussier at and follow him on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.