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The lowdown of the California College Promise

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The lowdown of the California College Promise

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Venie Soares, Lead Reporter

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California’s new first year free tuition program isn’t new or free. 

Last October, Governor Brown signed AB19 into law. The bill, “California College Promise” would allow participating colleges to waive per unit tuition fees for new, full-time students for an entire academic year. But there is no guarantee for funding from the state. California’s yearly budget may or may not provide the money. COS could be on the hook for $70,000 to $150,000. 

“We don’t know how much money we’re going to get on a year to year basis,” COS Financial Aid Director David Loverin said, “and how many students will apply. It’s hard to follow a program when you don’t know how much money you’ll get from the state.”  

For the 2018-19 year, COS’s share of state funding is $414,000. Using these funds, COS has started a local pilot program, using the California College Promise bill, to allow for reimbursement of previously paid tuition by students.  This program, The COS Promise Reimbursement Program, will be on a year to year basis, depending on state funding.  

The COS Promise is a catch net, Loverin said, for students who don’t qualify for any other types of financial aid. For this semester, about 100 students qualified for the program by completing 15 units with a C average or better. It’s premature to make a decision on its success. The administration will look at the number of students served before considering any possible changes. But if COS doesn’t spend the money, it will have to be returned to the state. 

“I hope they continue to fund it,” Loverin said, “I hope it continues to grow and help support students who don’t receive financial aid. I’d like to see us get to the point of two years free tuition.” 

Not to be confused with California College Promise bill, the California Promise Grant is simply a name change. The fee waiver program is currently known as The Board of Governors Fee Waiver (BOG). The name transition is to be complete by Fall 2019. The program, including the application process and eligibility requirements are the same. 

The Board of Governors Fee waiver is the backbone of financial aid at COS. As California politicians call for a free Kindergarten through Community College education system, more students qualify for BOG Waivers than almost all other programs combined. 66 percent of COS students receiving financial aid get BOG Waivers totaling over $8 million in awards. 

All financial aid programs start with filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), Loverin said, all 114 state Community Colleges use the same programs, they are transferable and are great offers to get students into a four-year school. The California College Promise bill programs are very flexible and may be different from school to school. 

“Students and parents should ask schools,” Loverin said, “if they have a promise program and what it entails. They could be a little different at every college.”

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