There’s no shortage of studies showing college students are more likely to get their degrees if they take a full course load. But because they’re often holding down a job, most community college students only go to school part-time — increasing the odds that they’ll drop out.
In a bid to get more students across the finish line, California will soon begin providing need-based grants of up to $4,000 a year to help community college students cover their living expenses.
The state’s 2018-19 budget provides $132 million for the new Community Colleges Student Success Completion Grant program — a $41 million increase over the cost of two programs it’s replacing.
The catch? The full level of assistance is available only to students who take 15 units or more per semester — the workload required to earn an associate’s degree in two years and a bachelor’s degree in four.
Unlike some other forms of need-based aid that help students cover tuition and fees, the Community Colleges Student Success Completion Grant is aimed specifically at helping students cover their living expenses, so they can work less and concentrate on their studies.
For students taking 12 to 14 units per semester, the grant provides $649 a semester, or about $1,300 a year.
California is not alone in prodding students to sign up for 15 units a semester so they can graduate on time:
- Indiana has seen a dramatic increase in on-time completion rates since 2013, when it required students to take 30 credits a year to remain eligible for state aid.
- Nevada’s Silver State Opportunity Grant provides up to $5,500 a year to help cover the expenses of students who take at least 15 credits a semester.
- New York students who take 30 credits a year (including summer classes) can qualify for “tuition-free” college.
- Texas students who complete their bachelor’s degree in four years at one of the state’s 37 public colleges and universities can earn a $1,000 tuition rebate.
- Massachusetts provides a 10 percent tuition and fee rebate at the end of each semester for students who commit to taking a full course load at a community college and then transfer to a public four-year schools.
According to Complete College American, more than 25 states and 200 schools have instituted “15-to-finish” campaigns — policies and practices designed to encourage students to graduate on time.
- “Work less, study more: California will give grants to community college students attending full-time,” EdSource.
- “Getting free college tuition in California: a quick guide,” EdSource.