San Diego Community College District’s Free College Program Set to Expand Significantly in 2017

Photo: Representatives from both the San Diego Community College District and San Diego Unified School District join with San Diego Promise students at today’s news conference at San Diego Mesa College. B-roll of today’s news conference is available upon request.

The number of students receiving a free education through the San Diego Promise will more than quadruple to nearly 800 in 2017, the program’s second year, San Diego Community College District (SDCCD) officials announced today at a news conference at San Diego Mesa College.


The SDCCD is expanding its pilot program during the 2017-18 academic year to include up to 600 incoming freshmen at San Diego City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges. That’s in addition to the 186 students who are currently enrolled in the program and expected to continue on to a second year next fall, marking an estimated 786 students benefitting from the effort that is part of the national free community college movement.


Of the 600 new San Diego Promise students, most will be 2017 graduates from the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). Seventy-five will be accepted from San Diego Continuing Education, the SDCCD’s adult education division, and 10 freshmen will be admitted from the Monarch School, which has been educating homeless youth in the area for nearly three decades.


Applications are currently being accepted for the program.  SDUSD students must apply by February 10, 2017.  Applications are currently available at  Notification will be made by March 1.


“Although students in the San Diego Community College District have access to the most affordable, high-quality higher education in the nation, earning a degree or a certificate remains a financial challenge for too many,” said SDCCD Chancellor Constance M. Carroll. “Nearly 7 in 10 of our students are working to support themselves or their family, and most receive financial aid to help them get by. Expanding the San Diego Promise program means expanding access to even more deserving individuals throughout our community.”


A recent analysis found that 9 of 10 students in this year’s San Diego Promise program are from traditionally underrepresented communities, and approximately half come from families with a household income of less than $40,000 annually.  Fifteen percent of San Diego Promise students come from families with a total household income of less than $10,000 each year.


“The San Diego Promise program exemplifies the strong collaboration between the San Diego Unified School District and the San Diego Community College District that is yielding results for students of all ages,” said SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten.  “A free education system is a vital ingredient in a thriving democracy, and we are grateful for this opportunity.”


Nearly 70 percent of the students taking part this year in the San Diego Promise program plan on earning an associate degree and transfer to a four-year college or university, according to the SDCCD’s recent analysis. An additional 5 percent say they intend to transfer without an associate degree.


The San Diego Promise pays for enrollment fees and books that are not covered by financial aid.  Pilot program participants are required to take part in college orientation and map out an education plan, be enrolled in at least 12 units for both fall and spring, participate in eight hours of community service, and maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0.  The estimated cost of the program this year is $216,734.


Chancellor Carroll says that based on a positive initial response, the SDCCD believes it will attract sufficient philanthropic support to fund the second year of the pilot program.


The San Diego Promise is intended to ensure that no deserving local students are denied the opportunity to go to college due to lack of resources.  Students who receive some state or federal financial aid get the balance of their enrollment fees paid, thus ensuring free access. Students who do not receive state or federal financial aid will have their enrollment fees paid outright. And all students will receive up to $750 in grants for textbooks and related instructional supplies for the year.


Both the SDCCD and SDUSD are reaching to eligible students with details about applying for the program.  For more information, visit

As the second-largest of California’s 72 community college districts, the San Diego Community College District serves approximately 100,000 students annually through three two-year colleges and San Diego Continuing Education.  The three colleges, San Diego City College, San Diego Mesa College, and San Diego Miramar College, offer associate degrees and certificates in occupational programs that prepare students for transfer to four-year colleges and entry-level jobs.  Mesa College also offers a bachelor’s degree in Health Information Management.  Continuing Education offers noncredit adult education at six campuses throughout San Diego. 


The San Diego Unified School District serves approximately 130,200 students annually in preschool through high school, and it is the second-largest secondary school district in the state and is proud to call itself one of the top large urban school districts in the United States. Measures include its top scores on state and national tests, its leadership in areas such as technology, curriculum, neighborhood and specialty schools, career-technical education and food services. Its graduates include some of the nation’s top scientists, writers, and leaders, along with Hall of Fame sports stars.


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