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Free year of college for LAUSD graduates

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Pierce prepares for the Los Angeles College Promise, which offers one free year of education for high school graduates.

The program is set to begin this summer for Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and continue for the 2017-2018 school year.

“I think it benefits society as a whole because we need an educated public,” President Kathleen Burke said.  

The College Promise is an initiative to help students attend college without worrying about tuition for the first year.  

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the program in April 2016. More than $1 million was allocated to help fund the program, and the remaining amount came from a partnership between LAUSD and the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD).

“The mayor’s office did raise over a million dollars and the rest is coming through the foundation,” said Dean of Student Services and College Promise team member William Marmolejo. “The foundation is like the alumni leg of community college. The model for our promise and the LACCD is the last-dollar-in model. We are trying to use other people’s money first to give students the benefit of that free tuition.”

According to Marmolejo, incoming students must apply and complete certain requirements to be considered promise students. Since Garcetti announced the program, Pierce College formed a team to accomplish their goal.

“In the fall, we put together a team and we wrote a plan on how to recruit and implement the plan,” Marmolejo said. “These team members have been meeting on a regular basis to figure out how we are going to attract these students and get them to do things they are required to do.”

Students must maintain a 2.0 GPA, be enrolled full time both fall and spring semesters, apply for financial aid, complete an orientation and assessment, have graduated from LAUSD and participate in a summer program.

Incoming students who are enrolled in the program, won’t have to pay for tuition for one year. They will be guaranteed an English and math course along with other benefits that are packaged into the program, but are available to any student attending Pierce or any of the nine colleges in the district, Marmolejo said.

All LACCD campuses are participating, but each is developing different methods for the program, said Joanna Zimring Towne, who is part of the Pierce College Promise team.

“The idea behind the College Promise is that every campus, every college, has these core elements, but do them in whatever way they decide,” Zimring Towne said.  “Every campus does it differently, and that’s fine. The district’s intent was not to make everybody do the same thing, but that everybody is providing the same core services that we know to be successful high-impact practices that will help students succeed.”

Marmolejo said that looking through data, historically, you find students are not graduating community colleges at what’s considered a satisfactory rate. It takes students about six years to graduate or transfer with an associate’s degree.

The purpose of the program is to ease students’ financial burdens so that they are able to take advantage of the services provided to thrive in their first year of college.

To accomplish that, each school is offering required summer transitional programs, success coaches and priority registration for classes.

As of now, one option for the summer requirement is the Summer Bridge eight-week course that covers skills and student resources in-depth. Students can participate through the First-Year Experience, but for students who cannot commit to that program #PierceSuccess is another option, Zimring Towne said.

The #PierceSuccess workshop will run for four days, July 10 to 14. The event will occur from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., a total of 16 hours. Each day, for the first hour, students will learn about a skill, such as time management, then the remaining three hours will be a math and English refresher course.

“I think it’s a great way to package what we’ve already been doing in a way that makes sense to students and incentivizes what works,” Zimring Towne said.  “None of these things are new ideas, but it’s hard to get students to take advantage of them. By packaging it up before they even get here, our students will hopefully be starting much stronger.”