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Free tuition offered to attract preschool teachers and staff

Roland Lizarondo
Clarissa Carver, Director of St. Columba Preschool in Serra Mesa, January 14, 2022

More early childhood educators and support staff are leaving their jobs in San Diego and the rest of the country because of COVID. they are searching for higher pay and safer work conditions.

In response to the shortage, the San Diego County Office of Education has a pilot program to offer free tuition, pay for books, and even provide a laptop computer.

The program is available to students working to complete an associates degree in child development through Grossmont College and Cuyamaca College.

Free tuition offer to attract preschool teachers and staff

Clarissa Carver is the Director St. Columba Preschool in Serra Mesa and she is also a part-time student at Grossmont College taking advantage of the program.

“It’s a great incentive," Carver said. "That’s what got my attention because preschool notoriously doesn’t pay big bucks. Having the program available to people made it a lot easier to go for it.”

Carver’s preschool has an enrollment of 55 students ages 2 to 5. None of the children are eligible for COVID vaccinations yet which requires staff members to do constant sanitizing throughout the day.

“Even before the pandemic, there were challenges facing the child care field and COVID has just heightened them,” said Lucia Garay, Executive Director of Early Education Programs at the San Diego County Office of Education. “One of the challenges that continues is child care providers leaving the field for other opportunities, which then limits the capacity of child care programs because they don’t have the adequate staff. This opportunity is our attempt at providing an incentive to employees that will further them in their careers and benefit the children they care for.”


The program will pay for six infant/toddler units, Assistant Permit, Associate Teacher Permit, Teacher Permit, Master Teacher Permit, completion of A.A. degree and all related courses in child development, education, and family studies.

Roland Lizarondo
Teacher's Aide works with students at St. Columba Preschool in Serra Mesa, January 14, 2022

“The first five years of a child's life are crucial in their development and the more opportunities they have to be in high-quality education settings the better they will be prepared for kindergarten and their future,” said Alethea Arguilez, Executive Director of First 5 San Diego.

“Our hope for this program is that we are able to strengthen our child care system and provide opportunities that will encourage staff to stay in their positions,” said Arguilez.

First 5 San Diego is partnered with the County in funding the program.

Anyone interested in the free tuition opportunity can fill out an informational survey for either campus below.

Cuyamaca College Students

Grossmont College Students