LAUSD Grads Will Get One Free Year Of Community College

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Jill Biden launched on Wednesday a program that will give LAUSD graduates a free year of community college at one of the nine schools in the Los Angeles Community College District, reports the Los Angeles Business Journal.

The program, called L.A. College Promise, will go into effect starting with the class of 2017. Paritcipating high-school seniors will have to be eligible for California-in-state resident tuition, and will have to have completed federal student aid or California Dream Act financial applications.

According to the L.A. Times, the program is expected to cost $3 million in its first year. The mayor's office said that Garcetti has raised $1.75 million, and expects the L.A. Community College District to cover the rest.

"There isn't a city in this country that shouldn't join the president, the vice president, the first lady and the second lady's call to make community college free in America," Garcetti said at Wednesday's launch, according to NBC 4.

With all the promises made, the Times remains a little skeptical. It notes that the full list of qualifications has not yet been released. According to this handy guide that lists all of California's "college promise" programs, the only known qualifications for L.A. College Promise are:

1. The student must be a graduate of a LAUSD high school or a LAUSD designated charter school.
2. The student must enroll full-time in college, with a minimum of 12 units.

And while the guide says it's unknown if L.A. College Promise will cover books and transportation, the mayor made it clear on Wednesday that the program will indeed cover those costs. "This is more than just tuition. This is about books and transportation and discounts on our buses and our rail lines," said Garcetti.

Back in April, when Garcetti first hinted at this program, LACCD boardmember Scott Svonkin wrote an op-ed in the Daily News calling for tuition-free community college:

Actually tuition-free education is not new to California. Three decades ago, the state began offering tuition waivers to low-income community college students. About 5.2 million California students have benefited from the program, saving the average full-time student nearly $600 per semester.

But California's generous program does not reach all students. At our nine Los Angeles community college campuses, 60 percent of our full and part-time students receive fee waivers. A survey by LACCD's institutional research office revealed the families of 89 percent of our students made less than $59,000 a year. In fact, 56 percent of our students said their family income was less than $30,000.

Clearly the vast majority—not just 60 percent —of LACCD's student body come from economically challenged conditions.

L.A. College Promise is part of President Obama's 2015 call for a national effort to make higher education affordable. In September of 2015, President Obama announced in Michigan the formation of the College Promise Advisory Board, which is headed by Jill Biden. According to its website, the board will "work closely with seven key sector-based Leadership Committees, together advocating for free community college." Earlier that year, Obama outlined a plan to give $60 billion in federal money over 10 years to make two-year community college programs free. It's estimated that 9 million students would be eligible, and that the plan would save the average student $3,800 a year on tuition.

LAist called the LACCD and LAUSD but no one was immediately available for comment.