SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KRON) — California leaders announced they are set to launch a historic program to provide college students with a debt-free path through service.

Governor Gavin Newsom and leaders from the state’s college and university systems will provide undergraduate low-income and AB 540 eligible students stipends and educational awards up to $10,000 to help pay for college as they participate in paid community service fellowships during the academic year.

The #CaliforniansForAll College Crops program will provide up to 6,500 college students over two academic years with service opportunities in industries such as climate action, K-12 education, and COVID-19 recovery.

The program will also be a first to create state-funded opportunities for AB 540 eligible Dreamers to serve their communities.

A total of 45 campuses representing University of California, California State University, community college and private university systems have been selected to participate in the inaugural program.

“The California State University students who participated in the pilot program over the past year took their world-class CSU education and translated that into on-the-ground tutoring and mentoring in their communities,” said California State University Chancellor Joseph I. Castro.

“This program is an invaluable opportunity for our students to not only give back to their communities, but also to help prepare the next generation of CSU students for success. We look forward to even greater opportunities for the students selected through the inaugural year of the Corps.” 

According to the Governor’s Office, nearly four millions Californians owe $147 billion in student debt with Black and Latino’s facing the highest rates of default and delinquency.

The Governor said the new program is part of an effort to lead the nation in “service-centered paths, relieving the debt of recent graduates while moving the state forward with service-focused careers.”

“California is a world leader in both higher education and service,” said Governor Newsom.

“The #CaliforniansForAll College Corps advances these priorities by connecting Californians of different backgrounds with enriching service opportunities throughout the state while making college more affordable for our state’s future leaders. We hope the Corps will be replicated across the nation.”

In the Bay Area, Cal State East Bay was named one of the 45 campuses to receive a grant to run the new program.

Other Bay Area campuses to be selected to the program include: CSU Monterey Bay, San Francisco State, San Jose State, and UC Berkeley.

“Service learning is a hallmark of Cal State East Bay’s undergraduate programs, and the #CaliforniansForAll College Corps will support the infrastructure to further relationships with regional partners such as food banks, libraries, school districts, crisis centers and other community-based organizations,” said President Cathy Sandeen.

“This award will let us take this outreach to the next level as the paid fellowship equalizes the opportunity for students of all backgrounds to participate.”