Fresno Community College OAB- Wikimedia Commons California currently waits for Governor Jerry Brown to sign or veto Assembly Bill 19, which would waive fees at any community college for a student's first year.
Daniel Pearl Magnet High School

Community college to be tuition-free with Assembly Bill 19

At about this time each year, students are frantically filling out college applications and hoping to be able to afford the school of their choice. This problem isn’t on the minds of students from New York or Tennessee due to new adjustments.

New York started the Excelsior scholarship which qualifies families making up to $125,000 per year to attend college tuition-free at all public two- and four-year colleges in New York State.

The Tennessee Promise is, “funded by proceeds from our state lottery,” said Don Johnson, the Director of Constituent Services & Community Relations at the Office of Governor Bill Haslam, in an interview. “Since 2004, the lottery has provided merit-based HOPE Scholarships for graduating students seeking a 4-year degree, but there were additional funds accumulating that gave us the opportunity to make this investment to ensure that all of our students had an opportunity to earn the degree or certification that is vital in today’s economy.”

California is in the process of establishing AB 19, the California Promise, introduced by Assembly members Kevin Mccarty, Miguel Santiago and David Chiu on Dec. 5, 2016. The bill will waive the fees for one academic year at any community college for first time students taking 12 or more units.

Cities in California already have bills like this in place and the response has been, overall, positive and many believe it, “will encourage more students to choose the community college transfer pathway as a major cost saving option toward getting a bachelor’s degree,” said Sunday Salters, Transfer Director at Los Angeles Pierce college, in an interview. “It will also open up doors to students who were planning on going straight to work out of high school to go to college and get a certificate or an associate’s degree first.”

Students must apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid but don’t need to qualify to get the California Promise. The Promise also caters to residents and undocumented students, but some still have concerns regarding the bill.

“I do not see the purpose of paying for students whose families can afford the cost of community college,” said Linda Zimring, member of the Advisory Board of The National Research Center for College & University Admissions, in an interview. “For a family with low-income, and a student who is ready to begin a four-year college, I would prefer to see part of the AB 19 budget spent on those kinds of students going directly to a four-year public university.”

California had tuition-free community college and public universities in the past and students are waiting for it to return that way. Other states are taking a step toward giving citizens the best and highest education possible, and California should do the same.

“The bill passed the Legislature and Gov. Brown is in the process of deciding whether to sign or veto it,” Los Angeles Times Journalist George Skelton said.