Lake Tahoe Community College offers free college tuition | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Lake Tahoe Community College offers free college tuition

Bill Rozak | brozak@tahoedailytribune.com

Sam Frates will receive a free year of college education starting this fall.

The South Tahoe graduate is taking full advantage of recently passed California Assembly Bill 19, which says any first-time student of any age who enrolls in 12 or more semester units at a community college doesn't have to pay a dime.

When deciding where to further her education, Frates said cost played a big part.

"It's cheaper overall and I can live at home," Frates said. "My parents are excited. My mom let out a big sigh when I told her I would be staying home and going to LTCC."

Frates easily could have gone to another school. She was a soccer star at South Tahoe and had opportunities, but nothing close to what LTCC could offer, including one of the state's best soccer programs, she said.

Frates may still have to pay some for books, but figures federal student aid and scholarships she has earned may take care of all expenses.

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"I'm lucky to have four generations of family here," said Frates, who was born and raised on the South Shore. "It's an awesome opportunity for me. I was getting offers from other places but that would still be a lot of money. And LTCC has really good programs."

LTCC offers associate degrees, bachelor's degrees and vocational certificates in more than 40 areas of study, including psychology, business, fire science, culinary arts and allied health.

Aside from the free tuition for qualifying students provided by the assembly bill, LTCC offers a range of campus resources and programs, like the Open Educational Resources Initiative, which works to supply free or reasonably priced textbooks and other course materials.

Other resources include laptop rentals, unlimited free bus transportation on South Shore, free tutoring and mentoring services, writing help and academic counseling.

Still, cost remains one of the greatest barriers to continuing education, which is one of the reasons why the LTCC administration was a strong advocate of AB19, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2017.

While the bill is a one-year pilot program, the school intends to offer the program every year, according to Jeff DeFranco, LTCC president/superintendent.

"We wrote letters and contacted decision makers," DeFranco said. "Although it's designed for one year through AB19, the LTCC Foundation is raising money with the intent to continue this program whether or not the state continues. It really removes one of the greatest barriers to get higher education, the cost of classes."

DeFranco suspects that LTCC will see a higher enrollment, a much higher "capture rate from the local schools" and also a higher rate of first generation students.

The college has approximately 3,000 students during each quarter on its 164-acre campus. Full-time tuition at LTCC is about $1,200 per year. The $46-per unit fee is still the going rate for continuing students, about $552 for tuition per semester.

Also new for LTCC, open registration began Tuesday, May 29, and will continue through Sept. 17, the first day of fall classes.

The college also is opening this summer a new University Center that will house advanced degree programs.

Said DeFranco: "Students don't have to wait until August to enroll … There's never really been a better time to attend LTCC."