First Year Promise: A crucial step to college for all

Mehek Kapur, Staff Reporter

De Anza’s new First Year Promise program offers free tuition plus a $500 textbook stipend to students in their first year of college starting this fall. This would not only boost enrollment, but also help De Anza fulfill its stated goal of being more equitable, accessible and affordable.

Funding from this program comes from AB19, which allocated $46 million to all the community colleges in the state. In 2018, the community colleges spent that money in many different ways as a ‘test run’ for what programs would be most beneficial to students.

Some schools chose to use funding for free tuition, some put it into improving student services and others chose to subsidize non-tuition expenses such as textbooks and transportation according to EdSource.

Rob Mieso, Vice President of Student Services said that De Anza piloted the First Year Promise program with 175 students and saw an increase in retention rates for students of 2-3%. This positive result encouraged the college to expand the program to all qualified students.

With costs of college rising, many students choose to skip it entirely. However, by offering a year of tuition free, De Anza has the potential to attract more students, something it desperately needs in light of the recent enrollment crisis.

Although this isn’t a perfect solution to the issue of affordability, because many students have costs outside tuition and textbooks, it’s a crucial step to helping students focus more on education and less on affordability.

It also opens doors for students who previously wouldn’t have considered attending, increasing access for lower income students.

There are still many pieces of this program to work out, but California’s lawmakers understand this, and are prepared to make changes to the law as needed, including the possibility of an increase in the budget for the program, something Governor Newsom hopes to achieve soon according to a press conference he held to showcase his fiscal year budget.

Overall, the First Year Promise paves the way towards making college more affordable and accessible for everyone.