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Pasadena City College Announces Tuition-Free ‘PCC Promise’ Program for High School Graduates

San Gabriel Valley students earn tuition-free college with new initiative

Published on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 | 5:32 am

High school graduates in the San Gabriel Valley who meet eligibility requirements will be able to attend Pasadena City College (PCC) this coming fall without paying tuition, through a new program known as the “PCC Promise.”

The program, which will be formally announced this morning at a press event at PCC, is the latest in a growing number of similar programs at two-year colleges around the country, designed to give every student access to a college education. As tuition in the CSU and UC systems has skyrocketed by as much as 400 percent over the past 20 years, vastly outpacing inflation, the PCC Promise intends to lower barriers to ensure that the benefits of college attendance remain available to students of all backgrounds.

The Obama Administration first introduced the “America’s College Promise” proposal in 2015 to make two years of community college free for responsible students, letting students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and earn skills needed in the workforce at no cost. The proposal would require that community colleges must strengthen their programs and increase the number of students who graduate, states must invest more in higher education and training, and students must take responsibility for their education, earn good grades, and stay on track to graduate.

Under the program, students who meet eligibility requirements will receive one year of their PCC education completely free of tuition fees. Any student who graduates from a high school within PCC’s district and enrolls the Fall Semester after graduation will qualify for the program.

As the college aims to establish the program in perpetuity, the Pasadena City College Foundation will be engaging community support for the PCC Promise.

“This is something we have had in the works for a while,” explained Alex Boekelheide, Executive Director of Strategic Communications and Marketing for PCC. “There are a number of ‘Promise’ programs all across the country, and we have wanted to be a part of that since the beginning.”

As Boekelheide explained. “It’s tricky once you start to get into the details of a program like this. We wanted to make sure that we created a program that was sustainable, and reflected our own student population, and was something that could live in the long term.”

According to Boekleheide, PCC worked with a number of K-12 local school districts to help develop the program, including the Temple City Unified School District and the El Monte Unified School District, as well as with Pasadena Unified and Cal State LA “to make sure there is a clear path for folks from high school to university.”

“PCC has been a gateway to a better life for residents of our region for more than 90 years,” said PCC Superintendent-President Rajen Vurdien. “The PCC Promise makes sure that gateway remains open for all the students we serve — today and tomorrow.”

“Our communities deserve a quality institution that delivers a clear pathway to a better life,” said Ross Selvidge, president of the board of trustees of the Pasadena Area Community College District. “Research shows that California needs to produce 1.1 million extra college graduates by 2030 in order to keep our economy growing. The PCC Promise helps us do that.”

“America’s community colleges serve millions of students who otherwise would not receive a college education,” said former PCC President and California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott, who leads the Foundation’s effort to engage the community. “If we lower the cost barrier for low-income families, we will drive success in our local economy, our state economy, and our national economy.”

“It’s no secret that having more members of our community with college degrees helps drive the growth of our region,” said Jim Sarni, president of the board of the Pasadena City College Foundation. “At the same time, community colleges play a vital role in advancing the careers of workers at all levels of our economy. By increasing access to PCC, the entire San Gabriel Valley wins.”

In order to qualify for the free tuition, eligible students must have earned a high school diploma from any public or private high school within the Pasadena Area Community College District. Local students who enter military service immediately following high school will be eligible if they enroll at PCC the first semester after completing service.

Students must also enroll in at least 9 units per semester while at PCC, and must maintain a 2.0 GPA at PCC to remain within the program.

The PCC Promise is a last-dollar scholarship program, meaning it will meet any students’ funding need remaining after federal and state aid programs and private scholarships have been applied. The program covers students’ credit fees, comparable to tuition, which are paid on every unit for which the student registers. Funding will be provided to each individual student for one academic year.

The program will be available to students beginning in the Fall 2017 semester. Eligibility guidelines and program parameters are subject to change. More information is available at


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