LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Vice President Joe Biden's wife and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom joined Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles education officials Wednesday to launch a program that will provide a year of free community college tuition to LAUSD graduates.
The program, which will provide tuition at Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) schools, was inspired by calls made under America's College Promise, a national campaign that is spearheaded by President Barack Obama and chaired by Jill Biden.
"We are making a declaration -- an assurance that you can attend one year of school tuition-free," Biden said. "An assurance that you can concentrate on your studies, and get ahead."
Eligible applicants for free tuition must be part of the 2017 class of graduates at LAUSD schools and qualify for in-state resident tuition, and will need to complete their FAFSA or California Dream Act applications.
Garcetti helped raise about $1.75 million for the initiative through his Mayor's Fund, enough to pay for at least half of the costs of the program's first year. The balance of the funds came from the LACCD, LAUSD and the LA Area Chamber of Commerce, KCAL9's Craig Herrera reported.
"Higher education should be within reach for every student in Los Angeles," Garcetti said. "The L.A. College Promise is a path for every Angeleno to earn a high school diploma and pursue the skills and education they need to realize their dreams and potential."
Garcetti first hinted at his involvement in the local College Promise program during his State of the City speech earlier this year.
His Mayor's Fund for Los Angeles has raised money for the program from the Karsh Family Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Union Bank Foundation and the Baxter Family Foundation.
LACCD Board President Scott Svonkin said the one year of free tuition now being offered to 2017 graduates "is just the beginning," and that the eventual goal is to provide free community college to all.
"We are engaging the business community -- that is in need of a qualified and trained work force -- and philanthropists that understand the value of community colleges to work with us and support free community college educations for generations to come," Svonkin said.
Other districts and colleges have already implemented their own programs, but Los Angeles' will be the largest and would affect the most low-income students who are unable to afford college otherwise, according to LACCD spokeswoman Maria Iacobo.
"L.A. Unified is honored to join with the Los Angeles Community College District and the City of Los Angeles in educating the next generation of skilled workers, creative thinkers and effective problem-solvers," LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King said.
"Of the 30,000 students who graduated in 2015, more than 60 percent pursued a post-secondary education immediately after high school, including 37 percent who enrolled in community college," King said.
"With this new agreement in place, the class of 2017 will be empowered to enroll in a community college that offers the courses, the certificate and the transfer opportunities for them to embark on a career or pursue a university degree."
High school senior Milton Plietez, who wants to study computer science and hopes to one day work at Google, is among those students who could be directly impacted by the program.
"I don't want to be left with debt throughout my whole life," said Plietez. "So knowing that my first year will be free, that really made me excited."
In order to be eligible, students must attend classes full time.
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