Here’s who pays for California's community college 'promise' programs

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Listen to story

Download this story 0MB

Community college promise programs in California are growing like weeds. There are 23 by one count, 16 of which were announced this year.

The programs vary from campus to campus, but they all in some way cover the cost of attending community college. Some programs cover all tuition, books and even provide a laptop for the first year. Other programs cover only part of tuition and nothing else. Here’s a list to find out if there’s a promise program near you.

The goal of the promise programs is to increase the number of high school graduates who otherwise wouldn't enroll in college at all due to costs.

In the 2006-2007 academic year, California community colleges charged $20 per unit. In 2016 that had more than doubled to $46 per unit. A student taking a full-time load of 30 units would pay $1,380 in tuition each semester, plus fees that vary from campus to campus. Before 1984 there was no fee for community college classes.

“I’m really very excited about the potential,” said Joanne Waddell, president of the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, which represents about 5,000 faculty at L.A.’s nine community college campuses.

In April, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced an L.A. community college promise program that will start in the fall of 2017 and cover the first year tuition for L.A. Unified graduates enrolling at any of the nine campuses. Last year President Obama announced plans to waive community college tuition. 

L.A. community college officials said it could cost $5 million to cover first year tuition if about 7,000 L.A. Unified graduates enroll at the L.A. college campuses. Officials said they plan to cover costs through private fundraising, funds from the mayor’s office and tuition waiver programs already in place.

That’s more or less how Long Beach City College has been paying for its nearly decade-old promise program. It’s a partnership with Long Beach Unified and Cal State Long Beach. The program covers costs of advanced placement tests in high school, one year of tuition at the community college and guarantees admission to CSULB to students who meet a list of requirements.

LBCC officials believe the relationship between the institutions is key.

“When the community can see that your institutions are united toward a common purpose, I think the community responds and is willing to donate to that,” said LBCC spokesman John Pope.

In a five-year period, more than 13,000 Long Beach students benefitted from the Long Beach promise. This year the college’s foundation raised $422,441 for its promise program.