At its meeting on September 9, 2021, the San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD) Board of Trustees adopted an annual budget that invests $6.75 million to make college more affordable and accessible for students through a Free Community College strategic initiative. This initiative grows the District’s dual enrollment programs with high school and unified school districts in the county, increases the number of students in the District’s Promise Scholars Program, and expands the use of open educational resources (OER) and zero textbook cost (ZTC) degree options.
“This major investment for the Free Community College initiative underscores the Board’s and District’s commitment to putting students first,” said SMCCCD Board of Trustees President Thomas A. Nuris. “By making this $6.75 million allocation this year, we believe the District will be able to build out programs that will expand opportunities for residents of our region to access and complete a college education now and for years to come.”
The three components that make up the Free Community College initiative provide distinct areas of focus and support:
- The dual enrollment partnerships allow high school students to take and get credit for college courses while still at their high school. Participation in dual enrollment is free for students taking up to 15 credits per semester.
- The Promise Scholars Program includes the Promise scholarship, a dedicated counselor delivering personalized academic and sociocultural support, and performance-centered interventions. Participants also receive a monthly incentive (either transportation support or meal plan support), a bookstore voucher for books and course materials, and access to loaner laptops.
- The OER and ZTC initiatives eliminates the costs of textbooks and course materials for students, which in many cases cost more than the actual course itself.
“The SMCCCD’s focus on social justice and equity is at the core of the components of the Free Community College initiative,” said SMCCCD Chancellor Michael Claire. “This initiative meets students where they are and factors into the equation that the financial commitment of attending college is more than simply the cost per course, it’s the cost of books, materials, food, housing, transportation, childcare and so many other factors that often create barriers for students to enroll, persist and complete at our colleges.”
To expand the Promise Scholars Program, the District received a $2 million grant – over two years – from the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors to provide direct aid and support for students. The SMCCCD has also entered into agreements with five high school and unified school districts in San Mateo County to offer dual enrollment courses.