COC Board discusses student residency, First Year Promise program

Canyons Hall at College of the Canyons (Source: COC)

College of the Canyons looked at immigration, residency status and a new tuition-free program at its board meeting Wednesday.

During the Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees regular meeting, board members and College of the Canyons (COC) students discussed the college’s new First Year Promise program and how the college addresses student immigration and residency status.

Jasmine Ruys, COC’s dean of enrollment services, shared information with the board how student residency is determined, how tuition is determined, who has access to this information and who the college reports this information to.

According to Ruys, the enrollment office looks at federal status—including U.S. citizen, permanent resident, visa status, DACA and undocumented—to establish residency and determine tuition fees.

“We look at federal status to determine if you are going to pay in-state tuition,” she said.

The college also looks at California status, meaning the student had a physical presence in the state for one year and a day and has the intent to make California his or her home.

Ruys said all students, regardless of documentation status, immigration status or visa status, can attend school at COC, except for those who hold B Visas or visitor visas.

“If you are undocumented, or are a DACA student, or out of status on your visa you can attend,” she said.

Students become eligible for AB 540, or the nonresident tuition waiver, when they are either a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, T or U Visa holder, DACA eligible or undocumented and have attended a California high school for the past three years and have graduated from a California high school.

Ruys said those who have access to the residency information include the students themselves, third party entities when the students have given written consent, research organizations and the State Chancellor’s Office and financial aid offices for COC’s reporting purposes.

“We do have FERPA which says that anyone we share that information with is still held to FERPA as well,” she said. “Only people with an education need to know can access that information.”

The system is complex, as Ruys said herself, so COC has its own residency specialist in its admissions and enrollment office to go over information and answer students’ questions.

On average, the counselor sees between 300 and 500 students before the start of the year, according to Ruys.

During the discussion item, board members were also provided with copies of statements from the Board of Governors and COC Chancellor Diane Van Hook about immigration and residency status.

First Year Promise Program

During the meeting, board members were given additional information about the college’s new First Year Promise program, which is being funded for its first two years through a grant from the state.

“It is quite an exciting program and is highly supportive of students,” said Michael Wilding, COC’s assistant superintendent of student services. “We have a plan to extend it for as long as we can.”

Approximately 300 first-year full-time students will be part of the program which will allow students to attend COC tuition-free and fee-free for their first fall and spring semesters.

Students will be enrolled in a one-year sequence of courses that includes a counseling course, a math course, an English course and a new freshman seminar critical thinking course. They also will be required to attend a freshman orientation and regular advising sessions.

“We wanted to insure that we gave the students the best chance at success,” Ruys said.

In return, students will receive parking and/or bus passes, vouches for textbooks and supplies, free printing abilities and full coverage of enrollment and local fees.

“This is as close to free as we can get, trying to keep costs down for students,” Ruys said.

Other Notable Board Items

  • A screening of “C’est Normal,” an animated film created by COC students in the Animation Program based off of the story told by Holocaust survivor Marie Kaufman. Animation program coordinator Jeff Baker, teacher Masha Vasilkovsky, filmmaker-in-residence Ruah Edelstein and “Remember Us” project worker Samara Huttman shared the history of the project, its impact both in and out the classroom and the educational goals of the program.
  • ASG provided updates about the organization’s values-based programming initiative, attendance at local conferences and regional Student Senate for California Community Colleges meetings, creation of a high school “Cougar Club Scholarship Award” and creation of open office hours.

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