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San Mateo Community Colleges to Expand Free Tuition Program

June 29, 2021

The San Mateo Community College District in California will double its tuition-free program and expand dual enrollment for local high school students with one-time funding its board approved last week.

The Board of Trustees approved a one-time boost of $6.75 million for the district’s Free Community College Strategic Initiative as part of a tentative $470.4 million budget. The new funding includes $3 million for the district’s Promise Scholars program. The program covers tuition and fees and provides money for textbooks for full-time students. The program currently supports 2,000 students. Additional funding will allow the district, which enrolls about 20,000 students, to expand program access to 4,000 students, said Aaron McVean, vice chancellor for educational services and planning for the district.

“What we’re trying to do is make community college free for as many students as possible,” McVean said. “If we had all the resources in the world, it would probably be free to everyone, but there are always going to be some constraints.”

About $2.5 million of the one-time funds has been earmarked for expansion of dual enrollment. Another $1.25 million will pay to expand the district’s open education resources and zero-cost textbook program.

California is generous when it comes to financial aid for students, said Audrey Dow, senior vice president at the Campaign for College Opportunity, an advocacy organization dedicated to expanding college access and increasing completion. That said, quite a few students still do not qualify for state financial aid grants, and college-specific programs like San Mateo’s Promise Scholars program help fill those gaps and encourage college completion.

“The hope is that with these additional resources a student gets through the Promise program that they’re able to be full-time, that they’re able to potentially forgo work or forgo full-time work to be enrolled in college,” Dow said.

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Emma Whitford

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