The 2-year promise

Students in the Promise program can now get two years of free college at any California community college, according to Dean of Student Services William Marmolejo.

Assembly Bill -2, enacted on Sept. 13, expanded the current, one-year California College Promise program created by Assembly Bill 19 into a second year. The program pays for tuition and mandatory fees for two fall semesters, two spring semesters and a summer term. 

“It’s not just the free tuition,” Marmolejo said. “They get a lot more. We’re providing a structure for them to be successful.”

Students enrolled in the Promise program receive a peer mentor and a free Google Chromebook. They can also apply for the Mayor’s Young Ambassador Program, a free international travel program open only to Promise students. 

Students in the Promise program also receive a $300 voucher every year they are in the program for up to two years. The voucher can pay for transportation costs, food or textbooks. 

“We’ve always hoped it would be a two-year program,” Marmolejo said. “We were constantly trying to raise money to extend the benefit into the second year.”

Pierce has the highest number of Promise students among all schools in the Los Angeles California Community College District. Promise students have a nearly 80% retention rate,  according to Marmolejo.

“At Pierce, we really try to support them from day one all the way until graduation,” Marmolejo said. “That distinguishes us from other Promise programs.”

The First-Year Experience (FYE) Counseling Center has increased the amount of summer transition programs offered to accommodate the number of students interested in the Promise program, according to Student Services Assistant Tatevik Melkumyam. 

“Knowing that they have two years free definitely gives them peace of mind,” Melkumyam said. 

The benefits of the Promise program outside of the free tuition have helped students achieve academic success, according to Melkumyam.

“They feel more motivated that they’re getting support and can do better in their classes,” Melkumyam said.

Pierce’s outreach team works directly with high school guidance counselors to inform students about the Promise program. Career Guidance Counseling Assistant Kristen Acosta said that students and their families feel grateful to have the Promise program. 

“This opportunity is a way to support them in a way they didn’t think they had before,” Acosta said.

Currently, there is no limit for the number of students accepted into the Promise program. Marmolejo hopes the program incentivizes students to be successful.

“We’re really proud of what we’re doing,” Marmolejo said. “We try to be forward-thinking to help our students as much as possible.” 

To qualify for the Promise program, students must be graduates from a Calif. high school, complete the Pierce application and the FAFSA, attend a summer transition program, and enroll as full-time students. Summer programs include Summer Bridge, a six-week program, #PierceSuccess, a four-day program, and GO Days, one-day workshop events. 

To maintain good standing and qualify for their second year of Promise, students must maintain a 2.0 GPA and full-time status. Promise students are also obligated to attend one campus engagement event per semester. These are any Pierce-sponsored events outside of the classroom, including sports games and Transfer Center workshops.

“The more engaged a student is with the campus, the greater their chances of success,” Marmolejo said.