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How To Get Free Community College In California

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California To Offer 2 Years Of Free Community College

Live Virtual Support hours are available Monday through Friday from 9am-1 pm

During this time, students can connect with us via Cranium Cafe to check in with our San Diego Promise Staff. If you have questions about your San Diego Promise Program eligibility, requirements, or need support with CANVAS and MYSDCCD, our Virtual support& assistance hours are the best option for you!
Live Support Sessions Days/Times: Monday through Friday from 9 am-1 pm

Welcome To City College: San Diego Promise

The San Diego Promise is a two-year completion program for recent high school graduates enrolled full-time . The program provides up to two years of free tuition and health fees to eligible students. Participation in the Promise program comes with a variety of benefits: access to a peer mentor, specialized counseling and guidance support, and additional campus engagement opportunities.

Which States Have Free Community College

There are 20 US states that provide tuition-free community programs for eligible students. These are Arkansas, Boston, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New York, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Seattle, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.

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#californiansforall College Corps Will Help Create Debt

Crafton Hills College and San Bernardino Valley College will create paid community service opportunities for students starting in the fall with a $1.7 million grant from California Volunteers, Office of the Governor.

Just 45 colleges and universities from around the state were selected to create a #CaliforniansForAll College Corps program in this first year.

College Corps will provide 100 Crafton Hills College and San Bernardino Valley College students over two academic years with service opportunities in critical issue areas such as climate action, K-12 education, and COVID-19 recovery. Students who complete a year of service will receive $10,000 while gaining valuable experience serving in their communities.

In his announcement Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom congratulated the first colleges selected and predicted that the program could be a national model. He said community service is how young people build their sense of citizenship and their sense of their own strengths.

This is about forming stronger connections, Newsom said. All of a sudden something clicks. Something beyond yourself. You find your sense of self by finding your connection to others.

The money comes from Californias share of the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, as well as some money from the states general fund.

Does Every California Community College Offer The Promise Program


The short answer is no. According to California Community Colleges, colleges have the option on whether to waive enrollment fees.

According to a post on the CCC website, ” Not all colleges receiving Promise money are waiving enrollment fees many believe their California Promise funding is better used for other purposes, such as strengthening student support services to boost outcomes, or providing grants to help students cover the costs of childcare, transportation, books or other expenses.”

So, if you are hoping to get free tuition under the California College Promise Program you might want to check with the college before you enroll.

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Why States Are Making Community College Tuition

The push for tuition-free community college is a response to the growing cost of attending college. Between 1989 and 2016, the cost to attend college increased nearly eight times faster than real wages. The cost of a four-year degree in 1989 was $26,902, or $52,892 after adjusting for inflation. The cost of the same four-year degree in 2016 was $104,480.

Costs have accelerated over the last decade. The average tuition and fees at private four-year schools rose 26%, and four-year public schools jumped 35% during that same time. This has made college affordability a major policy issue in the 2020 presidential race. Several democratic presidential candidates have to forgive student loan debt, reduce the cost of tuition at universities, or eliminate tuition entirely.

Back in California, this crisis is what Newsom hopes to address by providing tuition-free community college.

“No one can argue with the fact that the full cost of attending institutions of higher learning is still far too high â both in California and across the country,” Newsom said in a press release. “But by offering two years of community college tuition-free, California is taking a meaningful step toward chipping away at the cost of higher learning for students and their families.”

What Could National Free Tuition Mean For California

It depends on which, if any, of the free tuitionbills gets through Congress. What state leaders definitely don’t want is for California to get less federal funding than other states that charge more for tuition. That could happen if the government matches the cost of tuition in each state rather than allocating funding based on average tuition nationwide.

“Since California has the lowest tuition in the country, we wouldn’t want to see our students be penalized because our state invests more money in our system,” Chancellor Oakley said.

Oakley would also want federal tuition funding to come with enough flexibility to allow states to use the money to best serve their students, while still holding them accountable for positive outcomes. He said he’d like to use federal dollars for supplemental instruction and emergency aid to minimize “all the things that we know very, very well prevent low-income students from succeeding.”

Jessica Thompson, associate vice president for The Institute for College Access and Success, cheered Biden’s plan to also provide two years of subsidized tuition at four-year universities designated as “minority-serving institutions,” which would include many of the California State University campuses as well as some University of California campuses.

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Insurance For Studying In The Us

It is vital to have a good insurance when you study in the US. Some colleges offer their own insurance, however their insurance is not mandatory there are usually better options. Read more about Study Abroad insurances.

To apply for a Community College you usually have to submit the following:

  • The college’s application form
  • Your high school diploma translated to English
  • A copy of your passport
  • Proof that you can finance your studies
  • Proof that you have the required English level, for example a TOEFL or IELTS test.

Sometimes you also need to submit other documents like a personal letter. Each school has their own admission guidelines so make sure to check the application procedures of the college you are interested in.

We can help you to choose and apply to Community Colleges in the US. Fill out an information request to get help!

What About My Local Colleges Promise Program

Free college tuition in California: Who qualifies?

You may have heard about a free-tuition Promise program at a college near you. Dozens of cities, school districts and colleges in California have set up College Promise programs that provide grants and support services, such as mentoring and student advising.

While their names are similar to the free-tuition program at the California Community College system, local College Promise initiatives are different.

The systems College Promise Grant is a state-wide program that waives enrollment fees and is available at all of the community colleges. Local College Promise initiatives are typically tied to a single college, and are more varied. There are 42 such programs across California, each with its own eligibility rules and financial awards, ranging from grants to pledges to cover as many as four years of free tuition.

Learn more about College Promise programs here.

Adding to the confusion, students participating in local College Promise programs are also often eligible to receive a College Promise Grant.

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Enrollment Fees May Be Waived

As a first year student, your enrollment fees may be covered for the fall and/or spring semesters if you meet the following requirements:

  • Be a first time college student and California resident. Students who take college courses while still in high school are considered first time college students.
  • Enroll in and complete a minimum of 12 units each semester at Fresno City College
  • As a second year student, your enrollment fees may be covered for the fall and/or spring semesters if you meet the following requirements:

  • Enrolled as a first time college student and be a California resident.
  • Completed a minimum of 12 units during each semester enrolled at Fresno City College .
  • Do Community Colleges Offer Bachelor Degrees

    Yes. In the US, 23 states allow community colleges to offer a bachelors degree. On the list are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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    Six Reasons To Study At Community College

  • It is cheaper than going to a university: higher education is expensive in the US. The tuition fees at Community Colleges are more affordable than going to university. On average the cost for Community College is less than half of taking an equivalent program at a public university. And private universities are usually even pricier.
  • It is easier to get accepted: Community Colleges use an open admission policy which means that anyone with a high school diploma or GED can attend. However, you will usually have to prove that your English level is good enough to attend and there might also be entrance exams in other subjects like Mathematics to determine which of the colleges courses that you can take. In California and Minnesota students dont even need to have finished high school to be accepted at Community College. However, if you did not finish high school I would recommend taking a look at Seattle Central College’s fantastic High School Completion Plus program that gives you a High School Diploma from Washington State AND an Associate Degree in only two years!
  • Classes are small: while universities often give lectures to hundreds of students at a time Community Colleges normally work with much smaller classes. This will enable you to ask more questions and get more support from your teacher. While university professors combine research with teaching the professors at Community College usually focus 100% on teaching.
  • Promise Programs Are Not Just About Free Tuition

    California Community Colleges Vector Logo

    Community colleges that get state funds to implement promise programs can use the money in a variety of ways to increase access to college and improve outcomes, especially for students who are underrepresented in higher education, including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and foster youth, among others. Colleges don’t have to use the money to waive tuition.

    Still, most promise programs do offer free tuition, for one or two years. Some also offer other financial and material support, like money for textbooks, bus passes, and food vouchers.

    Many promise programs also include workshops to help students transition into college, and individualized counseling to help students stay on track to earn an associate degree or career technical certificate, or to transfer to a 4-year university.

    Some colleges, including Long Beach City College, also use state promise funding to do outreach to local high school students, and to help them apply for college and financial aid.

    LBCC’s Dean of Equity, Sonia De La Torre-Iniguez, said the school partners with 41 local high schools to “cultivate college-going mindsets” in students early on, prioritizing schools that have large numbers of students of color. The goal is to broaden access to college, the work of which, De La Torre-Iniguez says, “starts well before the student’s first semester at Long Beach City College.”

    But that’s only because I live in affordable housing, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to rent.

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    First Of All College Is Rarely Free

    Community college tuition in California has always been waived for very low-income students . And, in fact, no one paid tuition up until the 1980s.

    But in 2017, when the legislature started funding community colleges to provide free tuition for other students through promise programs, some headlines hailed it as free college. Many say the same about Biden’s plan.

    Let’s be clear: It’s not free college. It’s free tuition. And, especially in California, there’s a big difference.

    “Tuition, particularly in California, is only a fraction of the cost of attending college,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. “Transportation, books, not being able to work full time that’s the true cost of college.” And let’s not forget housing, for many, the costliest piece.

    Tuition alone, at $46 per unit, costs full-time community college students around $600 per semester. While that alone is a significant amount of money for many low-income students, the figure is dwarfed by all the other costs of studying, and living while studying often called the “total cost of attendance.”

    East Los Angeles Community College estimates the cost of attendance for California residents for the 2021-22 school year at $15,719 for students living with their parents or other relatives, and $24,377 for students paying rent on their own. Other community colleges in our area make similarestimates.

    How Much You Save

    Students can save a ton of money and minimize loans by starting at SMC and then transferring to a four-year university or using their degree or certificate to get a job.

    • Same GE classes for 80% less than the California State University

    • Same GE classes for 90% less than the University of California

    • Same GE classes for 97% less than private universities

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    Find Out If You Are Eligible To Obtain Up To Two Years Tuition Free

    Program Eligibility Requirements

    • Must be a first-time to college student*
    • Must be a class of 2021/2022 high school graduate* OR identify with one of the following groups:
    • Foster Youth Student
    • Veteran of U.S. Armed Forces
    • Formerly Incarcerated Student
  • Must be a California resident or AB 540 eligible
  • Must Complete a 2021-2022 financial aid application
  • Must be prepared to enroll in a minimum of 12 units each semester accommodation on file)
  • *Student who completed college courses while in high school are eligible

    To find out if you may qualify to participate in the San Diego Promise, please contact us via email us at or call us at 619.388.3998

    • Attend a Virtual Promise orientation
    • Sign a Promise contract online
    • Enroll in at least 12 units by February 11, 2022
    • Maintain a 2.0 college GPA
    • Meet with a counselor each semester
    • Complete a comprehensive education plan by the end of your first year.

    Note: Information regarding the Promise contract will ONLY be provided to students that meet the program eligibility requirements. As program eligibility is determined, information regarding the Promise Contract will be sent to students via email.

    Step 1: SDCCD Admissions Application:

    Interested students must first complete a Fall 2021 Admissions application to San Diego City College at sdccd.edu/apply.

    Step 2: Financial Aid Application

    San Diego City College School Code for FAFSA or California Dream Act applications:

    • City College: 001273

    Virginia Get Skilled Get A Job Give Back

    Free tuition at community colleges in California

    This Virginian initiative makes community colleges tuition-free for low and middle-income students pursuing degrees in high-demand fields, such as health care, information technology, and computer science.

    Students who qualify for a Pell Grant can receive student-support incentive grants amounting to $900 per semester and $450 per summer term.

    Eligibility Criteria

    Initial eligibility for the program will be determined through the submission of federal and state student financial aid applications, including FAFSA. Each participating institution will have more specific information on how to apply for the program.

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    Ready To Start Your Journey

    Headlines can be misleading at times. Case in point: when lawmakers approved the California College Promise program in 2017, it was touted as “free college.” Assembly Bill 19 pumped $46 million into 114 California community colleges.

    However, not all of the California Promise funding goes toward paying students’ tuition. In fact, the schools decide how they want to allocate these funds. They may think the money is better spent elsewhere, such as building up student support services.

    Some 2.1 million students attend two-year schools in the Golden State, according to the California Community Colleges. One million California community college students do not pay for their tuition, primarily because of fee waivers.

    Going to community college can benefit students who want to save money on college, earn an associate degree, or complete general education requirements before transferring to a four-year school.

    Learn more about who qualifies for free community college in California.

    The True Cost Of Tuition

    “As the conservative in this space, I’m supposed to be outraged by the idea of socializing the two-year sector of higher education,” says Beth Akers, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush. “But the reality is that this shift that he is proposing is not as dramatic as the rhetoric around it would have you believe.”

    She points out that the majority of community college students qualify for federal and state grants and scholarships.

    “Right now, the majority of low-income students already go to community college for free, because of the combination of state aid and federal grants, their net cost, on average, is actually negative, meaning they’re getting some money back to cover living expenses,” she says. “So the idea that we’ll make community college tuition-free, sounds dramatic, but it’s not actually a huge change in the logistics of how we’re funding post-secondary.”

    According to The College Board, the average net cost of tuition and fees at two-year community colleges is actually -$220. This means many community college students are getting a small surplus, though not close to enough to cover books, supplies and living expenses. The estimated total net cost of attendance at community colleges is $14,560, on average.

    For this reason, Akers is skeptical of how impactful a tuition-free community college policy would be.

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