Oliver Craven is among the tens of thousands of students throughout the state who find themselves in a tight financial bind after graduation.
The 2019 Los Altos High School graduate was accepted to a UC but said he chose not to enroll because it would put him at least $100,000 in debt.
So Craven instead opted to spend his first two years at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills because he would be debt-free when he transfers to a UC. The Mountain View resident will receive some financial relief from the California College Promise program. The state-funded financial-aid program now makes the first two years of community college free for first-time students.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to get a lot of … general education classes done,” Craven said. “I’m glad I can take them for free versus paying thousands.”
According to Simon Pennington – the community college’s interim associate vice president of community relations, marketing and communication – Foothill is an ideal place for students to start their college careers.
“You will get a better education for the first two years at Foothill than you will at any four-year school,” he said. “The quality of education, the average class size, the resources – and it’s free. … It’s kind of a no-brainer.”
The Promise program likely makes Foothill an even more attractive option for students. Established in a bill endorsed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017 and passed by the State Legislature that fall, the program originally made the first year of community college free for students. Assembly Bill 19, which passed June 27, expands the promise to two years, thanks to a $40 million infusion from the state budget.
The tuition savings per student over two years at Foothill is “up to $3,000,” Pennington said. Compared to private schools and UCs, Pennington noted that “if you’re going to a private school, you’re going to save $100,000, minimum. … “If you’re going to a UC and you’re staying in the dorms, you’re going to save $60,000 minimum.”
In addition to waiving all enrollment fees and tuition, Foothill also offers these students free unlimited VTA public transportation, a discount card for local businesses and access to the food pantry and all other student-support services. In addition, Foothill offers a need-based free laptop service that provides up to $750 for a laptop computer to qualifying students.
Many of those who qualify for the California College Promise program also will receive free textbooks for two years. Books and supplies can set back the average American college student up to $1,440 a year, according to the College Board. Pennington said Foothill students spend “roughly a thousand dollars a year” on books.
To qualify for the program, students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form at foothill.edu/reg. Registration for the fall quarter begins Sept. 22.
For more information, visit foothill.edu/promise.