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A "four year promise" is a promise that institution makes for the duration of a client's stay; once the client has left the institution, the promise is no longer heeded.

The phrase originates in the relationships between college administrators and students, which often relies on the student body's short attention span (4 years, or often less) to on-going, systemic issues. This strategy can be used by colleges to make nominal concessions in one policy 'battle,' while patiently waiting for institutional longevity & momentum to win the policy 'war,' often as a result of the passing interest of the student body.

While a "four year promise" refers to an administration's actions, a "four year memory" may refer to the student body's (non) action.
"I thought the school promised to fund that program for the next 20 years. What happened?!"
"Oh, come on - that was just a four year promise!"
by bytebrekha April 03, 2009
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