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Ohlone College Student Services, photo courtesy of the CCC Chancellor's OfficeAmong financial aid offerings for community college students around the country, the California Community Colleges (CCC) fee waiver program does the most to provide access to students who need help with college costs, a new report shows.

In the 30 years it’s been available, the CCC Board of Governors (BOG) Fee Waiver has covered community college tuition expenses for more than 5.1 million Californians. Currently 1.1 million students are receiving the fee waiver—nearly 60 percent of whom are African American or Latino, historically underrepresented groups, according to the CCC Chancellor’s Office.

Simple, Easy To Access Application

One of the reasons the BOG Fee Waiver is so effective is the simplicity of the application form, making it easier for families to understand eligibility for aid, according to the report by the CCC Chancellor’s Office Division of Technology, Research and Information Systems, which compares the program with statewide offerings in six other states as well as President Obama’s federal proposal, “America’s College Promise.”

Adding to the simplicity factor is the ability to complete the few waiver application online at the same time students apply to community college, notes Keith Franco, CCC Technology Center Statewide Services. Community colleges or districts that support the statewide online admissions application, known as CCCApply, are free to offer the fee waiver online as well, at no cost to the institution.

The fee waiver is available in an electronic version within the OpenCCCApply Application Suite, Franco said. For those institutions that have already signed an MOU for use of the CCCApply Standard Admissions application, no additional participation agreement needs to be executed.

Each college or district that deploys the electronic fee waiver application can be guaranteed that the electronic version is always up to date and compliant with all legislative laws, due to its oversight by the CCCApply steering committee, he added.

Engineering students at American River College, photo courtesy of the CCC Chancellor's OfficeCovering More Of Students’ Needs

The Chancellor’s Office report notes that only California and two other states, Georgia and New York, offer “first dollar” programs that do not limit how much support a student receives from a tuition grant based on other aid received. Additionally, the share of historically underrepresented students receiving the BOG Fee Waiver is increasing, with African American and Latinos representing 58 percent of the total receiving aid.

Where the BOG Fee Waiver fell short of other programs was in the comprehensiveness of aid. Three of the states studied—Oregon, Kentucky and South Carolina—allow financial aid to be used for other educational expenses. The BOG program covers enrollment fees only, leaving students to rely on Pell Grants and Cal Grants to cover other college costs.

This is something the community college system is working to change, said CCC Chancellor Brice W. Harris, who retires this month.

“Despite the tremendous success of the Board of Governors Fee Waiver over three decades, much more must be done to support students in a high-cost state such as California,” Harris said. “Only 6 percent of the state’s Cal Grant dollars go to community college students, making the net cost of education for our students higher than for UC and CSU students in many areas of the state.”

To that end, the Board of Governors is sponsoring legislation that would enhance Cal Grant benefits. Assembly bills 1721 and 1892 would expand the Cal Grant B and C programs to help community college students cover the full cost of attending college.

7 Qualities Of Effective Aid Programs

In comparing the BOG Fee Waiver to other statewide financial aid programs, the Chancellor’s Office study measures the programs against seven attributes of effective financial aid programs outlined in the College Board’s 2008 report, "Fulfilling the Commitment: Recommendations for Reforming Federal Student Aid." According the College Board report, financial aid should be:

  • Directed to needy students with minimum barriers to eligibility
  • Sufficient to cover the costs of college completion
  • Provided in a clear, simple manner
  • Predictable
  • Increase both access and success

The BOG Fee Waiver program receives high scores on most of these standards, especially when compared to other state programs, according to the Chancellor's Office report. Download the full report here.

Crista Souza is the TechEDge News Editor