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California offers college students $10,000 for public service

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that 45 colleges and universities in California, including some of the most prestigious campuses in the state, will be part of a new public service program that will subsidize tuition for students who do community service alongside their studies.

The program called “Californians For All College Corps” will start in the fall 2022 semester with 6,500 students who will be deployed to part-time work in areas of pressing need like K-12 education disparities, climate change and food insecurity, Newsom said in a news conference with the leaders of the state’s public university and community college systems.

In exchange for 450 hours of service, each student will receive $10,000 toward their education and can get academic credit for their work.

Seven of the 10 University of California campuses will take part in the program in 2022, including UC Berkeley and UCLA, along with 16 of the 23 California State University schools and more than two dozen community and private colleges. The $146 million cost was approved as part of last year's state budget.

The College Corps takes its inspiration from national service programs that have helped participants pay for education, like AmeriCorps and the GI bill, said Josh Fryday, the state’s chief service officer and head of the new program.

“We are making it clear here in California, like the GI bill, if you are willing to serve your community and give back in a meaningful way we are going to help you pay for college,” Fryday said.

The program’s website outlines a competitive application process for the program that it says will focus on admitting low-income students and “dreamers” — students whose parents brought them to the United States illegally — who are eligible for the program under a California law that allows non-citizens to access in-state tuition if they graduated from a California high school and meet other criteria.

University of California President Michael V. Drake praised the program as a way to help thousands of students pay for college and reduce debt.

“California is and always should be a place where education turns dreams into reality, where people from all backgrounds and walks of life can succeed. Where we use our talents to make the world a better place,” Drake said.

Allowing “dreamers” to be eligible for the program is “very, very important,” said California State University Chancellor Joseph I. Castro.

“This historic investment will help mitigate the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on both students and communities,” he said.

Newsom said if the program is successful it could be expanded to include more students, and be replicated outside of California.

During this divisive era, the notion of public service and giving back to a larger community could help unify people, Newsom said.

“We’ve lost a connection to others. This is about forming stronger connections,” Newsom said. “If I could decide the future of this country I would demand that all of us have some compulsory service and shared experiences.”

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This story has been updated to correct that California State University Chancellor Joseph I. Castro said it’s important that the program be open to “dreamers,” students whose parents brought them to the United States illegally, not all students living in the country illegally.

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