WHITTIER – Rio Hondo College’s Board of Trustees adopted a balanced budget for 2018-19 on Sept. 12 even as it expands an ambitious free-tuition program to boost student success, College leaders have announced.

The budget, with an apportionment of $74 million, is up from $69 million under the state’s previous formula.

“This budget shows Rio Hondo College to be strong and solvent,” Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss said. “We are delivering on our promise to the community to provide a sound fiscal foundation as well as opportunities for success and increasingly positive student outcomes.”

Rio Hondo College is the first community college in L.A. County to offer free tuition for two years to first-time college students who enroll full time.

The College will formally announce the expansion of its Rio Promise tuition program at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25 in the Board of Trustees board room, but it has already enrolled more than 2,500 students in the program for 2018-19.

Student success numbers are also looking up for Rio Hondo College.

Completion rates hit 73.4 percent for college-ready students who earned at least 30 units and 60.4 percent for college-ready students who completed a degree, certificate or transfer related outcome, according to the 2018 Student Success Scorecard. Persistence rates are at 78 percent for college-ready students who enrolled during their first three consecutive terms, according to the Scorecard.

Meanwhile, the College has seen a sea change in the number of degrees and certificates earned by college-ready students.

From 2013-14 to 2017-18, degrees and certificates awarded to college-ready students rose by 234 percent, from 1,263 to 4,224, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Data Mart.

Degrees awarded to college-ready students rose 84 percent during the time period, from 982 to 1,824; certificates awarded to college-ready students increased by 785 percent, from 271 to 2,400, according to Data Mart numbers.

“California’s community colleges are charged with providing opportunities for success for some of the state’s neediest students – students who face challenges that we cannot conceive of,” Board of Trustees President Madeline Shapiro said.

“These students must overcome barriers like poverty, homelessness, the stress of supporting a family and, frequently, less-than-ideal academic preparation,” Shapiro said. “Rio Hondo College is here for them, with our growing array of support services that range from tutoring and other academic guidance to a pantry program on campus.”