California community college system receives $100 million donation for student support

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California’s community colleges are set to receive $100 million over the next 20 years, according to an Oct. 20 press release from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and the Foundation for California Community Colleges (FoundationCCC).

This money comes as a donation from the Jay Pritzker Foundation and is intended to support more students in finishing their college education. It is the largest philanthropic donation to a community college system in the United States to date, according to the press release.

California Community College Chancellor Eloy Oakley said he appreciated the donation and claimed it will be a significant help for students and the community colleges across the state.

“This unparalleled level of support for our students will be life-changing. We are grateful to the Jay Pritzker Foundation for their generosity and recognition of the California Community Colleges as a vehicle for transformative change,” said Oakley.

The $100 million donation to the California community college system will provide more funding for schools to provide emergency aid for students going through harsh financial struggles, and open up the possibilities for more scholarship opportunities in the future.

 For the first five years of the 20-year pledge, FoundationCCC will deliver grants to 34 community colleges, including Delta College.

Director of Marketing and Communications at Delta College Alex Breitler sees this donation as major help for students at Delta College for the next several years.

“This is an investment in our students that will pay off for decades to come,” said Breitler.

Most students at Delta College don’t pay for tuition with help from financial aid, but some still face many economic challenges outside of class.

“Although more than two-thirds of Delta College students pay no tuition, we know they face many other financial burdens such as paying for food, housing, transportation and more,” said Breitler. “This money will help address some of those needs, which will in turn give our students a better chance to succeed academically.”

The donation is not only seen as a benefit for the students, but also for the future of local communities.

“These students will go on to obtain jobs and boost the local economy, so in that sense this donation is very good news for our communities as well,” said Breitler.

Although the money provided during the first five years can go towards scholarships, funds for the first year will go completely toward emergency aid for students due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the announcement, Delta College plans to figure out how the funds will be awarded through scholarships and financial aid.

“We will need some time to work out the details of exactly how the funds will be awarded,” said Breitler. “We will communicate that information with students as soon as we have it.”  

Although tuition at community colleges remains low, it’s the non-educational expenses that many students are struggling with, from paying rent to purchasing clothing.

“Many community college students have difficulty affording basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing and childcare,” said Dan Pritzker, president of the Jay Pritzker Foundation. “Community colleges provide equal opportunity to pursue high quality education without incurring crushing debt.”

Pritzker also emphasized the importance of education in a democracy and is a main reason the Jay Pritzker Foundation made the donation.

“We believe education is key to preserving our democracy and hope others will join in supporting community colleges across the country,” said Pritzker.

The cost of living is a major obstacle for students attending college in California.

According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, the cost of living index in California during the first quarter of 2020 was 142.7, one of the highest in the U.S.

President and Chief Executive Officer of FoundationCCC Keetha Mills recognizes the importance of these kinds of donations in student success.

“Philanthropic dollars can make the difference between a student achieving their educational dreams or delaying that in favor of other pressing immediate financial needs,” said Mills. “The Foundation for California Community Colleges is honored to be entrusted with this gift and will partner with the Chancellor’s Office and our community colleges to use it to help keep our students enrolled and on track to achieving their dreams.”