Incoming Palomar students are now met with a new, but perhaps welcomed, dilemma of navigating two options for free education.
The California Promise, formally known as Assembly Bill 19 (AB-19), waives one year of community college tuition fees for all incoming freshman regardless of need. Signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2017, the California Promise ensures all eligible in-state students have access to higher education by alleviating a portion of the financial burden.
However, in 2016 Palomar established its own version of this program, known as the Palomar Promise. This program, financed by the Palomar Foundation, already provides funding for courses and other resources to graduating high school seniors from the eligible 55 schools within district.
Palomar’s plan for the allocation of money from these two programs is still in the works, but administrators are prepared to put systems in place and field questions for students.
Adrian Gonzalez, Vice President of Student Services at Palomar College, explained that the California Promise alone could jump-start students’ educational careers by leaving more cash in their pockets for transfer opportunities.
“A student who utilizes the California Promise and takes 30 units in their first year at Palomar, the potential savings are approximately $1,400,” Gonzales said.
In conjunction with the Palomar Promise, students may gain access to additional free educational funding.
Gonzales clarified that the primary difference between the California Promise and Palomar Promise is reach and resources offered. AB-19 opens the door to all first-time college students for free course enrollment, not just those graduating from the 55 high schools identified for the Palomar Promise.
“Since all first-time college students are already eligible to participate in the California Promise program, the primary difference will be that Palomar Promise students would get the added benefit of financial support for books, parking and health fees,” Gonzales said.
The California Promise extends access to free course funding to a larger number of students, but does not include the added reimbursement for other educational costs that the Palomar Promise covers.
Palomar administrators are still determining details on how these two programs will work in conjunction to best benefit students, such as solidifying protocol when a student qualifies for both. Many of the logistics are in the planning stage as the college awaits for the AB-19 funds to trickle in.
Gonzales stated that the college is expected to receive the California Promise funds this July, and is working with other offices such as admissions, financial aid, counseling and business services in order to prepare.
“There are a few other questions left regarding how it’s (California Promise) is going to be implemented, so we’re waiting for the funding to come in,” stated Laura Gropen, Director of Public Affairs for Palomar. “We are not 100 percent sure what the new role of the Palomar Promise will turn out to be in the future. There has been some conversation about a free second year, there will has been a whole lot of discussions about what it’s going to look like and what makes sense.”
In addition to new state legislation, Palomar is gearing up for substantial changes in regards to private funding for students. The Starlit Gala, an annual event that raises funds for the Palomar Foundation, supported student success programs, including the Palomar Promise, for 26 years. Starting this year, the event will no longer be offered.
Stacy Rungaitis, Executive Director of the Palomar College Foundation, provided insight about possible new replacements for the Starlit Gala.
“As we look to the future as a cutting edge foundation, we plan to sunset the gala in order to move to an incredible, new signature event this fall,” Rungaitis said. “We want to make sure the fall event showcases Palomar College and our students. To do so, we will be bringing the event on campus and working to expand our footprint with additional community engagement and support.”
The Foundation anticipates the new event will be equally as successful.
Through combining funding from the state legislation and private donations via the Palomar Foundation, the college works to find a sweet spot in regards to providing financial assistance to students.
Gonzales said that once the details are ironed out with AB-19 and the Palomar Promise, the landscape of Palomar will change in the long run as a result.
“These programs will be instrumental in helping to reduce student debt burden and in making a college education more accessible to all families in the Palomar College service area.”