PALM DESERT — The Desert Community College District Board of Trustees unanimously voted to extend College of the Desert’s plEDGE program to provide two years tuition-free to local high school students who graduate in 2019, according to James Meier, interim director of  community relations.

“We do not want the cost of college to prevent students from pursuing a higher education,” Superintendent/President Joel L. Kinnamon said in a prepared statement.

“This program helps remove some of the economic barriers to entering the first year of college while also providing critical guidance, skills and support that is essential to students achieving their educational and career goals,” he said.

The College’s successful donor-supported plEDGE program launched in the 2017-2018 academic year, benefiting about 1,000 students who graduated from local high schools in spring 2017 and began attending College of the Desert full-time in the fall. Some of the first plEDGE students are expected to graduate next May.

Local high school students who graduated in 2018 and 2019 also now have the opportunity to attend College of the Desert full-time for two years tuition-free following their graduation. More than 1,300 high school students who graduated in 2018 have enrolled in the plEDGE program this summer.

“The plEDGE is a powerful commitment to the educational and economic futures of our students, college, and community,” Kinnamon said. “We are so grateful to all who contributed or will contribute to our plEDGE campaign making college possible for every local high school student who wants to pursue the dream of higher education.”

“Our message is clear: If you want to go to college, you can at COD,” he said.

Students in the plEDGE program must enroll full-time (at least 12 units per semester) at the College; participate in the College’s EDGE (Engage, Develop, Grow, Empower) summer program before their first semester; maintain good academic standing; and participate in 10 hours of community service, mentoring or internships.

College of the Desert has campuses in Palm Desert, Desert Hot Springs, Indio, Mecca/Thermal and Palm Springs. The community college also offers classes at off-campus sites such as Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage high schools.