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Second year of Promise Scholarship provides fee-free two-years at Cuesta 

Cuesta campus San Luis Obispo.

–Cuesta College is further expanding access to higher education with the expansion of the Cuesta College Promise Scholarship to include the second year of fee-free education. San Luis Obispo County high school seniors graduating this year will be the first class eligible to obtain two full years of fee-free education at Cuesta College.

“We are very pleased to be able to welcome the class of 2018 and beyond to two years of fee-free college,” said Cuesta College Superintendent/President Dr. Gil Stork.

Launched in 2013, the Cuesta Promise has provided financial aid to nearly 3,000 San Luis Obispo County students. Initially, the purpose was to provide access to Cuesta College and included no restrictions. “Five years ago, the goal was to support those who never dreamed of being able to attend college because of the cost,” said Dr. Stork. “We wanted to make college accessible to everyone.”

Year two of the Cuesta Promise will include academic performance measures. To earn a second fee-free year, students must complete more than 50 percent of the units attempted, and earn a grade point average of 2.00 or higher during their first year on the Promise.

“Our goal is to both remove financial barriers and increase the number of local high school graduates attending and staying at Cuesta College,” said  Stork. The second year of the Promise is made possible by various funding sources. First, by the California College Promise Grant, formerly known as the Board of Governors Fee Waiver (BOG). The California College Promise Grant provides eligible students enrolled at CA community college campuses with free tuition.

A second source of funding has been made possible by local donors. “Year two of the Cuesta College Promise is largely in part due to the members of our local community, who have stepped forward with private donations,” said Cuesta College Executive Director of Foundation and Advancement Shannon Hill. “In 2016, the effort to fundraise for a second year of the Promise was announced by Dr. Stork. Funding a second-year costs almost $10 million. The bar was set very high, but with Dr. Stork’s leadership, donations of almost $3 million have been received by the Foundation to date.”
Major campaign donors include the Harold J. Miossi Charitable Trust, the Estate of Mary Schwartz, the Estate of Laura Coats, Rick and Jill Stollmeyer, PG&E, and Dr. Grace Crittenden.

The third funding component is the recent passage of Assembly Bill 19, which has full funding included in CA Governor Jerry Brown’s 2018-2019 proposed budget. AB 19 pays for the tuition of first-time, full-time students. “AB 19 provides enough funding to allow the Foundation’s fundraising efforts to support year two,” said Hill.

Since 2013, Cuesta’s local high school graduate attendance rate went from 25-percent to more than 36-percent. Today, 90-percent of local graduates who attend Cuesta College immediately after graduating, come as Promise students. The class of 2017 saw 876 students attend Cuesta on the Promise, including 180 from Paso Robles High School, 130 from Atascadero High School, 123 from Arroyo Grande High School, 101 from San Luis Obispo High School, 80 from Morro Bay High School, 74 from Templeton High School, and 25 from Coast Union High School.

“Since the college launched the Cuesta Promise Scholarship, we have been monitoring the success of our Promise students in several categories, including units attempted, units completed, GPA, persistence from Fall to Spring, and persistence from Spring to the following Fall,” said Dr. Stork. “In almost all categories, Promise students outperform first-time students who are not on the Promise Scholarship. The one area that remains unchanged is persistence from Spring to the following Fall. This is when the Promise Scholarship is no longer supporting a student’s education.”

“What we have learned from the Cambria Promise is that students’ persistence from Spring to the following Fall is much higher than that of our Cuesta Promise students,” said Dr. Stork. “We find that many students on the Cuesta Promise can’t continue on without gaining employment or reducing their unit load, thus putting greater strain on their academic performance. Being able to support all local high school graduates with the opportunity to attend Cuesta College for two fee-free years – without financial burden – is our gift to the community.”

In order to obtain the Cuesta Promise Scholarship, students graduating this year must enroll in courses for the Fall 2018 semester and complete the steps for the Promise Scholarship by August 1st. Upon completion of the application process, fees will be waived for Fall 2018 and Spring 2019. If a student meets the academic expectations in year one, their fees will be waived again for year two.

The Cuesta Promise is the result of a donation of more than $8 million to the Cuesta College Foundation from the Charles and Leeta Dovica Family Trust, who requested the funds be used for scholarships. The scholarship endowment, created in the fall of 2013, currently saves students an average of $1,400 each year by paying for the per- unit cost of classes, health fees, Associated Students of Cuesta College fees, materials fees, Student Center fees, and the Student Rep fee. For questions about the Cuesta Promise Scholarship, call (805) 546-3153 or email promise@cuesta.edu or visit www.cuesta.edu/admissionsaid/cuestapromise/.

Due to a private donation of $20,000, the Cambria Promise Scholarship was launched in the fall of 2016, allowing all graduates of Coast Union High School and Leffingwell High School to receive a fee-free second year at Cuesta College.

Founded in 1973, the Cuesta College Foundation connects private and corporate philanthropy with opportunities to support Cuesta College and its students. By doing so, Cuesta College can fulfill its promise to educate the community’s future business leaders, health care workers, teachers, engineers, scientists and first responders. For questions about the Foundation, call (805) 546-3279.

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About the author: News Staff

News staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote and edited this story from local contributors and press releases. Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Connect with him on , Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or follow his blog. He can be reached at scott@pasoroblesdailynews.com.