Some Inland students will have one less thing to worry about this fall: San Bernardino Valley and Crafton Hills colleges are offering two years of free tuition, along with additional aid, to students participating in their new Free College Promise program. 

“Starting now, we want to offer students their first two years of college for free,” John Longville, president of the San Bernardino Community College District Board of Trustees, said at a kick-off event in San Bernardino on Friday, March 9. “We think that gives them a heck of an advantage.” 

The Promise program will give 1,000 qualifying students two years of free tuition at SBVC or CHC, free textbooks, $300 cash for college expenses, free access to a laptop for coursework, individualized advising and priority course enrollment. Funding for the program comes from a $10 million endowment established in October by the trustees. 

“Many of our students cannot afford to go to college,” San Bernardino Community College District Chancellor Bruce Baron said at the event Friday morning. 

A study released Thursday reported that 19 percent of California community college students have been homeless in the past year and 50 percent have struggled with food insecurity. The study, conducted by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University’s College of Education in Philadelphia, surveyed nearly 40,000 students at 57 community colleges during the fall semesters of 2016 and 2018. 

“We promise that, starting today, your first two years of college are free,” Baron said. “You now have the opportunity in your hands to make tomorrow better than today. … You are all college material.” 

Students who want to participate in the program must have a high school diploma, sign up at the program’s website at, fill out a California Community College application, fill out a federal financial aid application (better known as FAFSA) or the California Dream Act, and commit to attending school full-time. The program will initially enroll 1,000 students, and be capped at that number going forward. 

Students from seven San Bernardino County school districts will get priority, including Bear Valley Unified, Colton-Joint Unified, Redlands Unified, Rialto Unified, Rim of the World Unified, San Bernardino City Unified and Yucaipa-Calimesa Unified. 

As of 2017, only 19.8 percent of San Bernardino County residents have a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, compared to a nationwide average of 30.9 percent that year. 

The community college district publicly committed to helping local students succeed. 
“There are people who want to support you, they are cheering you on, they want to mentor and help you,” said SBCCD board member Joseph Williams. Williams attended both Valley College and Crafton Hills himself and Longville credited him with being the engine behind the Promise students program. 

Williams wasn’t alone in having attended community colleges. 

Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes, D-Grand Terrace, state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, and Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the chancellor of California Community Colleges and a University of California regent, each told the assembled audience that included high school students Friday that they had attended Valley College, Mt. San Antonio College and Golden West College, respectively. 
“This is the window of opportunity, this is the gateway of opportunity for the majority of California’s students,” Oakley said. “You are the face of California. You are the future of California.” 

For more information on the Free College Promise, visit 

Article from the San Bernardino Sun.