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San Diego City Colleges To Offer Two Years Free Tuition

Students graduate from San Diego City College in this undated photo.

Credit: San Diego Community College District

Above: Students graduate from San Diego City College in this undated photo.

Free college will soon be a reality in San Diego.

Starting this fall, the state is covering the first year of community college statewide. The San Diego Community College District has announced it’s covering the second at its campuses. That means San Diegans can access a no-cost associate’s degree from Mesa, Miramar and City colleges if they finish on time.

“Our fundraising effort has now switched to the second year so that students are not only funded to come through our doors and have access to education but now would spend a second year in completion and success,” said SDCCD Chancellor Constance Carroll.

The effort is an expansion of a current program, called San Diego Promise, that grants two years free to 600 San Diegans who graduated from a San Diego Unified school, the Monarch School for homeless students, or San Diego Continuing Education.

“The program is what we call a ‘last dollar’ program,” Carroll said. “We first see how much financial aid students have and then we pay the last dollar, which is to bridge the gap between the financial aid package and the enrollment fee.”

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With the state pitching in, the college district can now shift its Promise funding to pay the “last dollar” for students in their second year. And with additional fundraising, the district plans to expand the offering to any local graduate who enrolls full time and maintains a 2.0-grade point average. The cost of textbooks is also included.

Carroll said the district is anticipating helping around 3,000 students this way, to the tune of $1.3 million annually. It plans to launch a fundraising campaign this fall, starting with a gala hosted by Mesa College alumna Annette Bening, to build on an existing endowment.

RELATED: Donovan Inmates Work Toward College Degree Through Obama-Era Program

“The cost of education is continuing to rise, and even though community colleges have low tuition, our students tend to be not well-to-do,” Carroll said. “Most of them are not middle class. Most of them are working, and most of them are working full time. So the cost of education can be a barrier to them even considering education.”

But when they do enroll, they rise to the occasion. Carroll said students in the current cohort outperform their peers in the general student body.

Kris Arciaga ,

With the state now picking up the tab for the first year, the San Diego Community College District has announced it's able to cover students’ second year.

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