Sara Routhier, Managing Editor of Features and Outreach, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming worl...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Jun 22, 2012

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California’s higher-education school system is amongst the best in the world. The UC and state college systems are sought by residents from all 49 other states in addition to the countless international students eager to get a “California Education.” But California has also succeeded in another area: it has a brilliant community college system aimed at prepping students to attend a 4-year university at a fraction of the cost.

Community colleges allow students to acquire an Associate’s Degree (AA) in two years and then transfer to a 4-year university to complete their remaining two years of upper-division courses.

Attending a community college for those first two years can equate to thousands of saved dollars in student loans. Just compare the cost of community colleges to their state and UC counterparts:

  California Community Colleges California State Universities (CSU) Universities of California (UC)
Approx. Fees/Tuition
(12 Unit Semester)
$864 $6,489 $13,200
Information from CaliforniaColleges.edu

The student loans required for these three options vary immensely, with the community college option being significantly less than the CSU and UC options.

But despite the relatively cheap costs of community colleges, the state wants to make the pursuit for a higher-education even more accessible. To complete this goal, a program called I Can Afford College, sponsored by the California community college system, was created.

What is the Program?

After legislative changes occurred in 2003 and 2004, the cost for community college enrollment across the state of California increased. Out of fear that potential students from lower-income households would be discouraged from applying to community colleges offered across the state, the Legislature and the Governor set some of the community college budget aside to help these students pay for their education.

Those funds went directly to the I Can Afford College program.

The goals of the program include:

  • Keeping California community colleges affordable by providing financial aid as a supplement to traditional student loan financing
  • Covering the cost of enrollment fees, books, supplies, and rent through financial aid opportunities instead of through traditional student loans
  • Positioning financial aid experts across all 112 community college campuses to provide students with one-on-one assistance

Since the program’s creation, financial aid opportunities have increased by about $2.2 billion. Additionally, the number of students receiving financial aid has increased by 36.6 percent.

While the program itself doesn’t give money to students, it provides students with a means to find financial aid that they will qualify for.

On the site, current or prospective students can learn about different financial aid opportunities available, they can schedule a one-on-one meeting with a financial aid expert, they can get answers to common financial aid FAQs, and they can follow the I Can Afford College program’s helpful links to other state-specific opportunities designed to help those in need.

For those who know what community college they want to attend, the site acts as a hub, directing students to the financial aid sections of whatever community college is selected.

If students find they do not qualify for the financial aid opportunities offered by the program, they can still apply for financing using our site’s student loan forms.