San Diego is now at the forefront of the national free community college movement. In 2016, the San Diego Community College District launched the San Diego Promise, which implements a local version of America's College Promise for free community colleges.
The San Diego Promise pays for enrollment fees and provides book grants for participating students at City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges. The San Diego Promise is ultimately intended to ensure that no deserving local students are denied the opportunity to go to college due to lack of resources.
Started as a pilot program with 186 students, the San Diego Promise will expand to 800 students in 2017-18. Program participants are required to be enrolled in at least 12 units for both fall and spring, participate in eight hours of community service, and maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0.
The program is limited to graduating seniors from the San Diego Unified School District, eligible students from San Diego Continuing Education, and students from the Monarch School, which serves homeless students in downtown San Diego.
Students are selected based on a combination of need, including barriers and challenges they have faced in high school, and commitment to completing a college degree, certificate, or transfer program.
There are three direct benefits under the pilot program. Students who receive some state or federal financial aid have the balance of the cost of their enrollment fees paid, ensuring free access. Students who do not receive state or federal financial aid, have their enrollment fees paid outright. In addition, all students receive a grant up to $1,000 to pay the cost of books and instructional materials. In 2017-18, students will receive up to $750 in grants for textbooks and related instructional supplies.