The San Diego Community College District (SDCCD) today announced a major expansion
of its tuition-free program known as the San Diego Promise making all recent high
school graduates who are first-time, full-time students eligible to receive two free
years of college.
Participating students may attend San Diego City, San Diego Mesa, and/or San Diego
The expanded San Diego Promise program will cost an estimated $1.86 million in 2018-2019
and be paid for using a combination of state and non-state funds. Participating students’
first year will be funded through an allocation in the state budget called the California
College Promise, which implements Assembly Bill 19 (Santiago). Students’ second year
will be underwritten through a district-led fundraising campaign.
The district estimates 3,500 or more students may benefit from the San Diego Promise
in the 2018-19 academic year. To qualify, students must be a California resident or
have attended a California high school for three years, have earned a high school
diploma in June 2017 or later, be a first-time college student, enroll in at least
12 units, and have completed a 2018-19 FAFSA or Dream Act application.
District officials stressed the importance of providing two years of free tuition
which will allow full-time students to complete their program of study and enter the
workforce or transfer to a university.
“A college education is key to economic advancement, since most jobs now require some
level of postsecondary preparation,” SDCCD Chancellor Constance Carroll said. “In
addition to excellent instruction, the San Diego Promise program also includes individualized
support services, educational planning tools, and counseling in order to ensure students’
success in obtaining a degree or certificate. This is all part of a team effort to
provide equitable access to our colleges and to improve student outcomes once they
As part of the fundraising effort that is aimed at generating increased community
involvement in the San Diego Promise, Oscar-nominated actress and Mesa College alumna
Annette Bening – a San Diego Promise donor – will headline a Sept. 20 benefit gala
at the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.
Today’s announcement took place at a morning news conference held at San Diego Mesa
College. Attendees included dozens of current San Diego Promise students and community
leaders who will be assisting in the fundraising campaign.
Launched as a pilot program in 2016 with 186 students, the San Diego Promise included
661 students at City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges during the just-completed 2017-18
academic year. Expanding the program means first-time, full-time students this fall
will not have to pay tuition for two years as long as they complete at least 12 units
and maintain a 2.0 GPA.
“Thousands of seniors are graduating this week from high schools in the San Diego
Unified School District, and historically one-third will go on to enroll at City,
Mesa, or Miramar colleges,” San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy
Marten said. “We are absolutely thrilled that the expanded San Diego Promise means
all of these students who enroll full time will be eligible for two, tuition-free
years at one of the finest community college systems in the country.”
Over its first two years, the San Diego Promise has demonstrated positive outcomes.
For example, the average GPA for an African-American Promise student this past year
was 3.33, nearly a full point above the 2.37 average GPA for other first-time, full-time
African-American students, according to a district analysis. In addition, 19 percent
of San Diego Promise students – nearly 1 in 5 – had a 4.0 GPA this past year, whereas
12 percent of other first-time, full-time students had a 4.0 GPA. And several San
Diego Promise students who graduated in May are transferring to UC San Diego, San
Diego State University, and other four-year colleges and universities.
San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer noted the higher salaries that SDCCD graduates
earn – $400,000 more during their working lifetime than someone with just a high school
diploma – and said the San Diego Promise is an investment in the region’s future.
“The San Diego Promise program is helping San Diego ensure that our workforce continues
to be competitive,” Mayor Faulconer said. “We will have more well-trained graduates
contributing to our economy and San Diego's future rather than worrying about how
they are going to pay off their student loan debt.”
Students can learn more about the San Diego Promise and begin the process to sign
up by visiting sdccd.edu/Promise and clicking on the “Future Promise Students” tab.
The district encourages students to complete a San Diego Promise Interest Form by
Tags: Free Tuition Program, Press Release, Mesa College, Promise Program, San Diego Promise