Community colleges seek to expand their reach | Local News

The College of San Mateo has taken several steps to improve student access to the coast and plans to continue outreach to meet and support community needs.

At the state level, Sen. Josh Becker, who represents San Mateo County, introduced legislation allowing San Mateo’s three community colleges to offer tuition-free classes to qualifying students.

To ease the difficulty of commuting between the coast and the San Mateo campus, the college began offering dual enrollment classes this semester at Half Moon Bay High School. Enrollment was strong, with 88 students taking pre-calculus courses and receiving credits that count toward both high school and college degrees. Another 31 enrolled in a statistics course through the dual enrollment program.

Students enrolled in CSM courses offered only at the college indicated that transportation between the coast and the San Mateo campus can be a problem. In response, the college is launching a pilot program in partnership with ride-sharing app Lyft that will offer free round-trip rides to students. A new website launched by the college allows students to register for the transport service. Once approved, students can request pickup and drop-off at any of 11 designated locations along the coast, ranging from Moonridge Apartments to Half Moon Bay Library, Montara Post Office and places in between . Students get one ride in each direction per day.

The need for transportation became apparent to Jennifer Taylor-Mendoza, the new president of the CSM, during an initial listening tour with students on the coast. Recognizing the value of hearing from members of the communities served by the college, Taylor-Mendoza announced plans for a series of public sessions. Coastside’s first public meeting will be held virtually at 6 p.m. on March 2. Taylor-Mendoza and the leadership team will give a brief presentation and then invite the webinar audience to offer feedback and ideas to help shape the future of the college.

“Increasing access to higher education is life-changing,” Becker said in a statement prepared as part of a news release announcing the introduction of Senate Bill 893. “This is one of the most important things we can do for our residents to provide economic mobility for our entire community.

If passed, SB 893 would provide a special exemption allowing the San Mateo Community College district to charge students less than the state-required $46 per unit. The bill requires the district to cover the cost of the fee waiver from existing college funds or using unrestricted county funds. The bill also expands the definition of education costs to include food, transportation, housing, books, school supplies, student counseling and technology needs. The district currently provides support in all of these areas to approximately 2,000 students through the Promise Scholars program.

According to Becker’s office, another 4,000 students could be eligible. The proposed law would require the district to establish eligibility criteria and restrict the program to students who live in the college district.

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