Promise students and supporters at a June 2018 news conference

Promise students and supporters at a June 2018 news conference at San Diego Mesa College including SDCCD Chancellor Constance M. Carroll, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, SD Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten, SDCCD Board President Maria Nieto Senour, and Mesa College President Pamela Luster. Enrollment in the program has increased from 186 students in 2016-17 to 3,100 this coming academic year.

Free college program surges to 3,100 students

August 1, 2019 | San Diego Community College District

Enrollment has increased again for the San Diego Promise, the San Diego Community College District’s free college program. Approximately 3,100 San Diego Promise students are expected at San Diego City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges when classes begin August 19. This is a 48 percent increase over the 2018-19 academic year, when about 2,100 enrolled. It also makes the San Diego Promise one of the largest free community college programs in California.

The San Diego Promise provides two years of free tuition and book grants to all first-time students who enroll full-time. The SDCCD launched the program three years ago with just 186 students. Since then, it has increased exponentially and is now attracting students from across the state. In fact, students from 122 high schools outside of San Diego County have enrolled for upcoming academic year.

“The success of the San Diego Promise is good news for San Diego, especially our local workforce since Promise students tend to finish their academic programs faster and with less student debt,” said Lynn Neault, SDCCD Vice Chancellor of Student Services. “A remarkable 98 percent of these graduates will stay in San Diego after completing their academic programs.”

To further boost student completion, and thanks to the generosity of donors, the San Diego Promise will for the first time enroll a limited number of part-time students who meet specific criteria. These include Promise students from the past academic year who cannot continue to attend full-time due to work or family commitments. Accommodations are also being made for more Continuing Education students, foster youth, veterans, and formerly incarcerated students who would otherwise not qualify for the program.

Neault says the SDCCD is able to expand the program as a result of increased state funding as well as continuing philanthropic support, which has exceeded $1 million in donations from local individuals and corporations.

“Dollar for dollar,” said Neault. “This is the best investment we can make in the future of our community.”

In addition to financial assistance, the San Diego Promise program provides counseling and hands-on support to help students develop and stick to a plan to meet their educational and career goals. Eighty-four percent of last year’s Promise participants are students of color who saw higher success rates than their non-Promise peers.

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