Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a statewide “promise” law to fund a free year of community college to anyone who qualifies. Our very own Shasta College has received a $350,000 grant for any lingering costs not covered by the state. If state legislators approve the program, the state of California will cover most of the bill.

The primary push for the Shasta College Promise Program comes from the potential to fortify the labor pool and workforce in Shasta County with educated workers. According to the most recent United States Census Bureau data, 90% of Shasta County residents finish high school, a rate higher than the state and national averages. However, just 20% of county residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, falling below the national and state averages. The program to help cover a full year of tuition may be the incentive students need to continue their education past high school.

Shasta College school officials say that the initiative to get students into college will not only positively affect their lives but also add to the workforce in Shasta County, which hit 74,500 people in 2017. Shasta College President and Superintendent Joe Wyse said in a statement that with this program more students can go to school to learn a trade, complete a career program, or even transfer to a full-time university. All of these possibilities will get students into the labor pool as educated and skilled workers.

According to Shasta College Marketing Director Pete Griggs, it is too soon to know how much the entire program will cost, as they don’t know how many students will enroll. Officials do know that any California resident who is new to Shasta College and applies for financial aid, registers for 12 or more units, and finishes a new student orientation and education plan will be eligible for the program.

If a student has already attended a different college, they can still qualify as long as this is their very first year at Shasta College and they meet the other requirements. Students who did dual enrollment at Shasta College while still in high school can still qualify as well.

Should the state approve the program, growing industries in Redding and the labor pool and workforce in Shasta County can expect an influx of educated and experienced workers. And students will be able to receive the education they want at a top college, regardless of their financial situations.