Hundreds of San Jose students are getting free college

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- San Jose officials launched a new program Wednesday aimed to make community college more affordable for all and free for some low-income students for two years.

There are similarities between this program and San Francisco's, which offers free tuition for all San Francisco City College students.

RELATED: San Francisco will be first in nation to make City College free

Both programs give money to students, so that those who qualify can go to college for free for two years. San Jose officials plan to get the funding from the state and city.

San Jose City College student Michael Perales took a winding path to college. He graduated from Branham High school five years ago and figured out college was a step he couldn't skip to reach his career goals. "It's either you go to school or there's really no other way about it, so my goal is to basically really make it as a dietician," he said.

San Jose officials and community college leaders are hoping to help more students like Perales reach their goals, so they officials launched a program to help.

The San Jose Promise program is built upon three core elements: College Readiness Programs, College Promise Scholarships and College Pathways Partnerships. And in conjunction with the launch, San Jose City College, Evergreen Valley College, and West Valley College announced a significant expansion of College Promise scholarships that, when leveraged with other sources of financial aid, will ensure up to two years of free community college for approximately 800 qualifying students next school year. The College Promise scholarships will be focused on low-income, first-generation and historically under-represented students.

Much of it is a major expansion of programs already in place. "I got financial aid, which made it super easy. It's like $600 to be full time, but financial aid chopped it down to like $30," Perales said.

The state will provide most of the funding at $750,000 each to Evergreen Valley, West Valley and San Jose City colleges.

The city of San Jose will provide infrastructure to the program, with the goal of bringing in more resources and donations. "Considering the living expenses here, it's really difficult to come to school at the same time and pay your bills and have a place to live. And if they've offered more money and helped people to get educated it's going to be an investment for the country," San Jose City College student Sundus Barakzai said.

Students graduating from a San Jose High School can start applying for the grants starting in June.
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