Pathway to Two Years of Free Tuition to Pasadena City College Emerges

Two programs will combine to provide two free years of academia for qualifying PCC students; meanwhile, number of college-age students falls

Published : Tuesday, November 21, 2017 | 5:55 AM


A combination of a State Assembly bill and current PCC Promise funding could make tuition virtually free for qualified local students to receive a two-year degree at Pasadena City College, but that outcome depends on a number key factors falling into place.

First, the recently enacted AB 19 awaits money from the Legislature. If adequately funded, this bill would establish the California College Promise, which would make distributions to qualifying community colleges to waive fees for one academic year for first-time students.

PCC’s Promise program administrators — who already have been helping high school graduates attend the college without paying tuition for their first year — are pondering the possibility of applying their funds in a different way to help students after AB 19 kicks in.

If — and this remains an ‘if’ for now — students can have their per-unit fees waived automatically for their first year because of the State bill, the PCC Foundation could potentially pick up the tab for the second academic year.

According to the California State Legislature website, the AB 19 bill, approved in October of this year, established the California College Promise, administered by the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, to “distribute funding, upon appropriation by the Legislature, to each community college meeting prescribed requirements to be used to, among other things, accomplish specified policy goals, and waive fees for one academic year for first-time students who are enrolled in 12 or more semester units or the equivalent at the college, and complete and submit either a Free Application for Federal Student Aid or a California Dream Act application.”

Currently, existing law requires community college district governing boards to charge students an enrollment fee of $46 per unit per semester, although the board of governors to waive this fee for students meeting prescribed requirements. The new bill creates a free academic year for all students who meet the requirements and apply.

According to the website, the goal of the program is to increase the number and percentage of high school students who are prepared for and attend college directly from high school and increase the percentage of high school graduates who are placed directly into transfer-level mathematics and English courses at a community college.

The program will also hopefully increase the percentage of students who earn associate degrees or career technical education certificates that prepare them for in-demand jobs and raise the percentage of students employed in their field of study.

In addition, the program would increase the percentage of students who successfully transfer from a community college to the California State University or the University of California and increase the percentage of students who graduate from college with a baccalaureate degree.

The legislature hope to close “regional achievement gaps” and achievement gaps for students from underrepresented groups including low-income students, students who are current or former foster youth, students with disabilities, formerly incarcerated students, undocumented students, students meeting the requirements of Assembly Bill 540 of the 2001–2002 Regular Session of the Legislature, and students who are veterans.

Money for the program has not yet been budgeted by the State Legislature, Dr. Ross Selvidge, President of the Board of Trustees of the Pasadena Area Community College District said.

Meanwhile, PCC is beginning to feel the effects of a national aging trend, reducing the total numbers of community college students.

“By 2030, the number of people between 18 years old and 30 years old, which is 80% of our students is going to decline in Los Angeles County by 10%,” said Selvidge.

“And there’s not a lot of guesswork associated with that,” he said, “because, think about it, they’re already here, they’re 2 years old now, they’re 7 and 8 years old now,”Selvidge added.

Selvidge noted that PCC has typically been ahead of that in recent years but a number of local colleges have been experiencing declines in enrollment.

“The number of young people is declining,” he explained. “It’s not growing more slowly, it’s not flattening out, it is in fact, declining. This past fall we had slightly fewer students enrolled. That was the first time in a number of years.”


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