Former fee waiver program becomes Promise Grant

By Dorany Pineda

The Board of Governors introduced the California College Innovation Promise Grant on Sept. 19, which promises high school who show financial need a free year of community college tuition.

Formerly known as the Board of Governors Fee Waiver program, the College Promise Grant provided $15 million during the 2016-2017 year to approximately 1 million students with free tuition––with half of the 2.1 million current California Community College

The change of the fee waiver program to the College Promise, Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said in a press release, is the state’s way of making college an attainable option for young Californians who might not have seen college as a choice.

As a first dollar plan, the College Promise grant covers the costs of tuition first.

If the student is awarded any other financial aid, he/she can use that money to pay for non-tuition expenses like textbooks, housing and transportation.

On the contrary, last-dollar plans only cover tuition costs that are not paid for by other financial aid.

With this model, students with the most financial need gets the smallest financial benefit, according to the press release.

“California’s commitment to affordability focuses our resources on those students with the most financial need,” Board of Governors President Cecilia V. Estolano said in a press release. “This progressive approach to financial aid ensures that all California students, not just those from higher-income families, have the opportunity to attend and succeed in community college.”

A report published by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office says that “the grants will be used to address college preparedness, improve transfer and graduation rates and reduce achievement gaps for underrepresented students in postsecondary education.”

For a community college to receive the grant, it must partner with one or more K-12 school districts and one or more California State University or University of California campuses.

The California program was signed into law in September of last year by Governor Jerry Brown.

The program was established by Assembly Bill 1741, which was introduced by Assemblymembers Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, and Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach.

The Board of Governors also approved the 2018-2019 Budget and Legislative Request at the Sept. 9 meeting, during which the board spoke in defense of increasing funding for the Cal Grant Program, which offers tuition coverage for students transferring to a university.

They also urged the governor to continue providing $25 million to help community colleges build stronger partnerships with local high schools.

According to the press release, the actions of the Board of Governors are in line with the California Community College’s Vision for Success plan.

The plan, as written in the “Vision for Success: Strengthening the California Community Colleges to Meet California Needs” document,  intends to alleviate the challenges that community colleges face.

A few of the goals it hopes to achieve include increasing the percentage of community college students annually who receive degrees and certificates and that transfer to UCs and CSUs;  closing the achievement gaps that exist for underrepresented groups of students.

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