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San Diego
Thursday, May 30, 2024

SDCCD Gets $3.4M in Congressional Funding

EDUCATION: Financial Aid for Dreamers, LGBTQ+ Students, Former Foster Youth

Nearly $3.5 million in federal funding is coming for eligible students attending classes at San Diego Community College District schools, through the combined efforts of local elected officials Rep. Sara Jacobs (51st Congressional District), Rep. Scott Peters (50th Congressional District) and Rep. Juan Vargas (52nd Congressional District).

The money, earmarked for the educational needs of more than 100,000 students attending SDCCD schools, was included in the FY 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The bill, the result of negotiations by House and Senate leaders, got President Joe Biden’s signature late last year.

“The bipartisan funding bill advances key priorities for our country and caps off a year of historic bipartisan progress for the American people,” Biden said in a press statement. “This bill is good for our economy our competitiveness, and our communities.”

The funding comes from three grants that the San Diego Community College District requested:

  • $1.2 million to better serve lesbian, gay and transgender students, championed by Jacobs;
  • $1 million for an initiative to expand service at the San Diego College of Continuing Education to youths who have recently aged out of the foster care system, championed by Peters;
  • $1.2 million for new and expanded centers serving undocumented students, championed by Vargas.
Carlos O. Cortez
San Diego Community College District

“These funds will support the academic success of our students, particularly students who face unique challenges as they pursue their education,” said Carlos O. Cortez, chancellor of the San Diego Community College District.

Cortez’s career in education began when he was a Teach for America Corps member, where he said he saw the “rich-poor divide in academia.” Cortez since that time has held several positions that have allowed him to create change, fight social injustices and foster urban education reform. The chancellor also acts as the chief policy advocacy officer for the district.

“We make an effort to meet with elected officials at least twice a year,” Cortez said. “I’m told by lobbyists that we are receiving more community funding for projects than any other community college district in the country.”

Safe Spaces, Special Programs

The $1.2 million grant obtained by Jacobs to support LGBT+ students will be used to create or expand Pride Centers at San Diego City College, San Diego Mesa College, San Diego Miramar College and San Diego College of Continuing Education.

The Pride Centers offer a safe space for persons of all sexual or gender identities and provide education, dialogue and research on issues related to sexuality and gender.

The grant will also be used to hire a regional coordinator who will act as a liaison among the many local agencies that provide services for LGBT+ students. It will also fund an annual leadership academy that encourages students to support the LGBT+ community, along with a weekly program that develops leadership for LGBT+ high school and junior high school-aged youth.

The $1 million grant backed by Peters will fund the Gateway to College and Career Program at the San Diego College of Continuing Education for former foster care youth. More than 1,500 former foster care youths live in San Diego County.

According to the SDCCD, studies show that 47% of youths who have recently aged out of foster care are unemployed — and 33% are or have been homeless.

For the past six years, the Gateway to College and Career program has offered services, learning opportunities, job training and internships to former foster care youth. The program collaborates with social service agencies to provide food, education, and connections with employers for former foster youth.

The $1.2 million grant sponsored by Vargas will support Dreamer Resource Centers at the four college campuses. The centers serve undocumented students — including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) students — by offering help with registering for classes, for financial aid, and toward readiness for college and a career.

The SDCCD says that an estimated 1,200 undocumented students attend City, Mesa and Miramar colleges. Another 2,000 students who are undocumented or come from families with undocumented members attend the non-credit San Diego College of Continuing Education.

The funding will also be used to develop partnerships with community organizations that serve undocumented students and expand outreach at high schools for undocumented students there. The grant will also support an annual Undocumented Student Conference to demonstrate to the college community that the campuses are welcoming and safe for undocumented students.

“Sara Jacobs, Juan Vargas and Scott Peters believe in the students we serve,” Cortez said.

He also said that in August, Peters helped the district obtain a $975,000 federal grant to expand a program that provides free online textbooks and resources to students, saving them the cost of buying books for their classes.

The grant money will be used to develop more zero-textbook-cost courses, which use digital materials that are free to students. Since 1978, textbook prices have risen more than 800%.

“We have to remove those obstacles for our students,” Cortez said. “We are here to help create community around the most vulnerable student populations. Our students, many of them can’t persist and complete their degrees if it weren’t for us going above and beyond to meet those needs.”

San Diego Community College District

CHANCELLOR: Carlos O. Cortez
BUSINESS: Community college/Education
BUDGET: $992 million
CONTACT: 619-388-6500
SOCIAL IMPACT: The San Diego Community College District is the region’s largest provider of workforce training and education and San Diego’s largest institution of higher education.
NOTABLE: The San Diego Community College District and its graduates have a combined economic benefit to the region of $4.3 billion annually, with 98 percent of the district’s students staying local after completing their education.


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