The California Promise is not only expanding access to a community college education, but it is also closing achievement gaps and improving student performance.

Sadly, there is a lot of confusion about what the California Promise is and what it is not.

Here is a little background.

As part of the California Promise, colleges can, but not required to, waive enrollment fees for all first-time, full-time students who do not qualify for the California College Promise Grant. The California College Promise Grant, formerly known as the Board of Governors Fee Waiver, serves more than 1 million California community college students each year.

The California College Promise Grant and the California Promise are separate programs.

The California Promise was funded beginning in 2018-19 for $46 million. Not all colleges receiving Promise money are waiving enrollment fees; many believe their California Promise funding is better used for other purposes, such as strengthening student support services to boost outcomes, or providing grants to help students cover the costs of child care, transportation, books or other expenses.

Either way, colleges receiving California Promise money must engage in several outlined activities. Among those activities: operating programs with local high school districts that support pathways to college; implementing the Guided Pathways framework; and helping students access need-based financial aid such as Pell Grants and Cal Grants.

The California Promise program is, in short, intended to help make college affordable to all students, support the goals in the Vision for Success, strengthen Guided Pathways and encourage innovation.

The California Promise builds on the California College Promise Innovation Grant Program authorized through Assembly Bill 1741 in 2016. That program offered financial support to districts interested in creating or expanding Promise programs that included partnerships which aligned local K-12 school districts, community colleges, and public university systems to pave clear pathways for students to follow in reaching their educational goals.