L.A. city officials launched a program Wednesday to guarantee all high school graduates within the Los Angeles Unified School District at least one free year of tuition-free community college education.

The L.A. College Promise program targets all seniors at LAUSD schools, starting with the class of 2017, guaranteeing one tuition-free year at any one of the nine campuses in the Los Angeles Community College District. The seniors must be eligible for California-in-state resident tuition and have completed federal student aid or California Dream Act financial applications.

The announcement was made Wednesday morning at a press conference featuring local, state and federal officials on the campus of Los Angeles City College, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

“Higher education should be within reach for every student in Los Angeles. The L.A. College Promise is a path for every Angeleno to earn a high school diploma and pursue the skills and education they need to realize their dreams and potential,” Garcetti said at the press conference.

In her comments, Biden noted that the Obama administration last year released a proposal to make two years of community college free for many students. The Los Angeles program, she said, is a major step in that direction.

“The L.A. College Promise program is a declaration that your Mayor, your schools, and your teachers are making to you…We believe in your determination and resilience. We are making a declaration — an assurance that you can attend one year of school tuition-free. An assurance that you can concentrate on your studies, and get ahead.”

Besides the free first-year college tuition, the program will also provide tutoring and mentoring programs for high school seniors, along with financial literacy workshops.

Public policy and energy reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.

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