'Central Valley Promise' program aims to provide students with free community college

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Attending community college has never been easier or more affordable thanks to multiple programs aimed at waiving tuition for many students.

California has one of the largest and most affordable community college systems in the country, and now state lawmakers are working to make the first two years of study free for full-time students. That's a bene

"Students across our nation, and especially in California, do not have enough money to go to college," says Dr. Paul Parnell, the chancellor of the State Center Community College District (SCCCD).

More than half of the 60,000 students who attend community college in the Central Valley already qualify for free tuition for the first year.

The recently introduced Assembly Bill 2 would expand free tuition to cover two academic years for certain students.

RELATED: Free college: CA assembly member calls for 2 years of free community college

Dr. Parnell hopes the idea of debt-free education would be enough to entice more high school graduates to enroll in local community college.

"Ultimately, what we want is to change the college-going culture of this Valley. We want everyone to go to college," Dr. Parnell says.

For students in the Central Valley, attending college has never been more affordable. In conjunction with what the state provides, local colleges also offer assistance beyond tuition, thanks to a pilot program called "Central Valley Promise."

"Books can cost over $200 for one book, for one class. They need child care, they need transportation, they need food , they may need clothing and we are doing what we can to help students succeed," says Lucy Ruiz of SCCCD.

RELATED: Clovis Community College food pantry helping students with food insecurities

One student taking advantage of the local pilot program is Kelsey Smith. The Sanger High graduate settled on Fresno City College after weighing the cost of what a four-year university would charge.

"It's another opportunity to achieve the same end goal of receiving a higher education at a lower cost and it will help expand our society in the long run by educating more students and by producing more effective and efficient workers," says Smith.

The Central Valley Promise is modeled after similar statewide programs.

For more information, head to the SCCCD website.
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