Free community college tuition? The idea is spreading across Southern California
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Free-tuition programs are one way to improve the “unacceptably slow pace” of completion, Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said in an April letter to college presidents and district chancellors.
Long Beach has drawn national acclaim for its program that began in 2008. Any student who graduates from a Long Beach Unified high school and is eligible to attend Cal State Long Beach is guaranteed admission. Otherwise, a graduating student can enroll at Long Beach City College and take a year’s worth of classes without having to pay tuition.
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Santa Ana College started the program with almost 1,500 kids last fall. Santa Ana Unified School District students who enroll full time and apply for financial aid are eligible for a tuition-free first year just by graduating high school. They also can borrow laptops for their studies. After completing Santa Ana College, they are guaranteed admission to Cal State Fullerton or UC Irvine.
Tuition is paid by the nonprofit Santa Ana College Foundation, as well as city and Santa Ana College employees through payroll deductions, a $5 million state grant and Santa Ana College’s Centennial Scholarship Program.
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Other colleges are benefiting from a $15 million state grant to start or expand the effort. The money from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office is shared by 14 districts.