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San Diego Community Colleges Could Parlay Free Year Of College Into Two

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.

Gov. Jerry Brown included $46 million in his budget proposal this week to fund Assembly Bill 19, which makes the first year of community college free. The San Diego Community College District is running the numbers to see if it can also make the second year free.

Under a program called San Diego Promise, the college district already covers two years of tuition for 800 local students. Chancellor Constance Carroll said with the state picking up the tab for year one, this district could focus Promise dollars on year two.

“We could use the money that we have already raised, and are raising, for the San Diego Promise for the second year so that this could be a full completion,” she said.

Associate’s degrees typically take two years to earn.

Carroll said the governor’s proposal would benefit about 2,700 San Diego students in their first year. The district’s existing spending would cover the second year for more than half of them. Donations and federal student aid could help make up the difference.

Video by Matthew Bowler

Under the current program, students matriculating from San Diego Unified schools, San Diego Continuing Education and the Monarch School, which serves homeless youth, have their fees waived and receive money for books if they enroll in 12 units, complete community service and maintain a 2.0 grade point average. The program is funded through donations.

In addition to the AB 19 money, the governor’s proposal also included $120 million for an online community college, an additional $60 million in base funding and $275 million for deferred maintenance and capital spending. Brown also wants to change the funding formula for community colleges, basing it on student outcomes instead of enrollment alone. He has proposed spending $175 million to make that transition.

All told, Carroll said San Diego campuses would receive about $23 million over the current year.

“I think he’s probably been the best governor for community colleges that we’ve ever had,” Carroll said of Brown, who's final term ends next year. “We could all use more, but he’s been a breath of fresh air as governor.”

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