As tuition has steadily risen at four–year institutions over the last two decades, millions of students have turned to community colleges as a fiscally responsible option for earning higher-education degrees without taking on tremendous debt.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s new Community College Promise, which waives tuition for first-year, full-time students (a minimum of 12 units) regardless of financial need, makes community college a smarter option than ever.
Brown signed the program into legislation as Assembly Bill 19 in October 2017. The governor has set aside $46 million for the Proposition 98 General Fund to pay for the program in his proposed 2018-19 budget. A revised version of the budget will be released in May and the official budget will come out this summer with the program set to go into effect for the Fall 2018 semester.
The new program isn’t to be confused with the similarly named California College Promise Grant (formerly the Board of Governors Fee Waiver), which students like Parvinder Singh have taken advantage of for years.
The grant waived community college tuition fees for students from low-income households. Brown’s new program expands upon that, eliminating the need criteria and making college education more widely available to everyone.
Singh said such a program has made all the difference for him since he has been living on his own since his graduation from high school. Despite wanting to go to college, the now Merced College sophomore’s priorities became paying for rent and food as opposed to tuition.
“College was always in the picture for me, however, a lot of my life experiences could have easily prevented me from coming to college,” Singh said. “Primarily it was the people who I was surrounding myself with and my source of income. I didn’t know where I was going to be after I turned 18, because my parents didn’t want me at the house anymore.
“So getting that tuition waiver was a blessing, because it allows me to keep studying to my full potential instead of having to split my time working and figuring out how I’m going to pay for school.”
Merced College Superintendent/President Chris Vitelli hopes stories like Singh’s become commonplace as the College prepares for the Community College Promise to go into effect for the 2018-19 school term.
“This is an opportunity for families in and around Merced County to consider college in a new light,” Vitelli said. “The main difference between the new Community College Promise and the old Board of Governors Fee Waiver is it’s no longer need based. Families that didn’t meet the financial criteria, but still didn’t have an abundance of money, had tough choices to make.
“This program opens the door for everyone and we hope the community takes full advantage.”
Blue Devil Notebook is compiled by Merced College staff. It will run occasionally and contain news, information and events happening at the college.