Governor Brown Signs Bill for Free Community College Tuition

Southwestern College commits $36,000 in additional scholarships for students

Students celebrating receiving their diploma at the 2017 Southwestern College commencement ceremony.
Students celebrating receiving their diploma at the 2017 Southwestern College commencement ceremony.

CHULA VISTA, California ­– California Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation that provides one year of free tuition at any California Community College for any first-time student who enrolls full-time.

On Friday, Brown signed Assembly Bill 19 that waives the first year of fees, regardless of household income. At $46 per unit, the California Community College system is the most economical higher education opportunity in the country, as well as the largest institution of higher education in the country.

The new legislation supplements the new California College Promise Grant (formerly the Board of Governors Fee Waiver), which waives tuition fees for low-income students at any California Community College. Currently, more than 70 percent of students at Southwestern College have their tuition fees waived by the California College Promise Grant.

The announcement was welcome news for Southwestern College as community members have been raising funds for a year for scholarships that help meet the other economic challenges facing Southwestern students.

Called the SWC Cares Local Scholarship, the $36,000 in preliminary funding is open to graduates from the Sweetwater Union High School District attending Southwestern College full-time this year. Modeled after similar Promise programs throughout the California Community College system, the SWC Cares Local Scholarship helps ease the financial burdens of tuition, transportation and living expenses. The deadline to apply is Oct. 31.

“At Southwestern College we know that tuition is not the biggest barrier to students staying in school,” said Superintendent/President Dr. Kindred Murillo. “The SWC Cares Local Scholarship is our commitment to student success as we help meet students’ other financial worries.”

The SWC Cares Local Scholarship is part of the broader SWC Cares initiative that brings economic, community and social resources to Southwestern College students. One year ago, the college opened the Jag Kitchen food pantry for students with food insecurity. This fall the college launched the SWC Cares Emergency Grant to help prevent students from dropping out of school because of an unexpected financial emergency. And next month, Southwestern College will participate in the national Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, which culminates in hosting a resource forum for all community colleges and universities in San Diego County.

Assembly Bill 19 makes California one of a handful of states that have started tuition-free community college programs. Other states include Tennessee, Oregon and Rhode Island. It requires community colleges to partner with their local K-12 districts and participate in the California Community College Guided Pathways Grant. Southwestern College has had longstanding partnerships with the Sweetwater Union High School District. Earlier this year Southwestern College was one of 20 California community colleges to be selected for the Guided Pathways project.

“Southwestern College is committed to student success and student access,” said Governing Board President Tim Nader. “Our college leadership and community continue working closely together to ensure all South County residents have the best opportunity to reach their academic and workforce potential.”