SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With college tuition on the rise, it's harder and harder to get a degree without racking up thousands in debt. The Los Rios Community College District is hoping to relieve some of that burden by adding funds from donations to make community college more affordable for first-time students.

The Los Rios Community College District announced Thursday that it's using $752,500 in donations for scholarships — the largest set of investments to address college affordability in the district’s history. 

“Los Rios is committed to solving the financial challenges that our students face,” said Brian King, Chancellor of the Los Rios Community College District.

The money came in the form of donations from Sutter Health, SAFE Credit Union, Wells Fargo and VSP Global, resulting in 1,234 Promise Scholarships that will remove financial barriers to education for low-income students.

Some of the obstacles the $500 scholarships will help are paying for textbooks and living expenses that are not typically covered by existing financial aid programs.

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While community colleges have the lowest tuition in higher education, the total cost of college includes far more than fees. Currently, independent students who attend community colleges in California pay about $1,100 for tuition and fees, $1,792 for books and supplies, $4,160 for personal and transportation needs and a whopping $12,492 in living expenses.

The funds will build on the state’s newly announced two-year California College Promise Program, which guarantees free tuition for all first-time, full-time California Community College students.

These investments and state funds, in addition to partnerships with the City of Rancho Cordova and the City of West Sacramento and their respective Promise programs for people who live in those cities, will help Los Rios students reduce the financial hurdles to academic success.

Students who want to apply to the Promise Program, can visit the Los Rios website. Students must be incoming first-time, full time students and enroll in a minimum of twelve units. They must also complete the FAFSA or California Dream Act Application

The deadline to apply for Fall is August 14.

Sutter Health is providing the largest investment toward the effort, committing $512,500 over five years. In a single year, this funding will support 180 students with $500 Promise Scholarship. Their investment will help support students’ post-secondary and workforce success. 

“Education is one of the foundational pillars to the health of any community," said Keri Thomas, vice president of External Affairs, Sutter Health Valley Area. "We hope that these Promise scholarships provide the reassurance and spark the inspiration students need to continue pursuing their dreams and reaching for their goal."

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Wells Fargo was the first corporate partner to support the Promise effort, giving $90,000 total over the past two years. Their gifts will fund 80 of the 120 inaugural Promise scholarships this fall, at $500 per student, and another 90 scholarships next year. Their gift will also support an additional $10,000 for the Los Rios Colleges Foundation Student Emergency Fund, Los Rios officials said.

SAFE Credit Union’s  $120,000 donation will be shared between the Los Rios Promise Scholarship, providing 120 student scholarships and support students who serve as program assistants at the STEM Center at American RiverCollege.

VSP Global’s gifted $30,000 to the Promise Scholarship to asupport 54 students with $500 scholarships and a $3,000 contribution to the Los Rios Promise Endowment.

Rancho Cordova and West Sacramento leaders have already been backing this effort, dedicating local voter-supported tax measures to help residents with the cost of attending college.

In Rancho Cordova, the funds have supported student tuition fees, book vouchers and other mandatory fees. In West Sacramento, the funds have covered tuition and other student fees as part of the city’s West Sacramento Home Run program.

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