Mesa College to offer free tuition

America’s College Promise is beginning to be fulfilled

Robert Thomas, Staff Writer/Photographer

The San Diego Community College District has the privilege of being one of the first college districts to pilot the launching of a new program that makes two years of community college free for qualifying students.

The program, announced by the White House in January 2015, is called the America’s College Promise Act. According to a recent press release by the SDCCD, the “Promise” program will cover enrollment fees and include a stipend of up to $1000 for books and supplies for 200 SDCCD students during the 2016-17 academic year. In order to qualify, students must be recent graduates from local high schools, enrolled in 12 units for both the fall and spring semesters, complete eight hours of community service during each semester, and maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA. The program will be open to students who receive financial aid as well as those who do not but still have a financial need. Students should be able to apply to the program starting in April.

A July 2015 report from the American Association of Community Colleges states that colleges will receive 75 percent of the national average cost of enrollment, and 25 percent will come from the states themselves. Currently, students at community colleges receive more than $10 billion in pell grants. Over the next ten years, $79.7 billion in federal funding will ensure that all eligible students attend community college tuition-free.

In a press release by SDCCD last week, San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Martin said, “This is an important opportunity for our students to access higher education free of charge.” The press release states that the $215,000 price tag on the district’s pilot program will be paid by non-state funds. Martin goes on to say, “It is another example of how our partnership with SDCCD benefits San Diego students. We are excited to participate.”

As usual, SDCCD is at the forefront of implementing the most progressive policies and agendas. The “Promise” program is an important step in ensuring equal access to education nationwide. The fact sheet issued by the White House Office of the Press Secretary states that 9 million students will benefit. By the end of the decade, 30 percent of jobs will require at least an associate degree. Giving people the opportunity to earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree increases the likelihood that they continue on to finish a four-year degree, strengthens the economy, and contributes to a more enlightened society.