California Lawmakers Want to Extend Free Community College to 2 Years

December 6, 2018 Updated: December 6, 2018

Students attending California community colleges could receive two years free education under a new bill that was introduced on Dec. 3. It comes about one year after the state legislature decided to waive the first year tuition at community colleges.

The author and other advocates of the bill, AB 2, gathered on Tuesday at Los Angeles Trade Technical College to promote the idea of the 2-year tuition-free college education, which would enable many students to complete an Associates Degree in California.

“In the fight against income inequality, a free education is the greatest instrument we have,” said Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), one of the bill’s authors.

“Whether community college is used as a stepping stone to our amazing four-year universities or to apprenticeships and workforce training programs, it is a key component of California’s education framework and should be the cornerstone of a debt-free education.”

Assemblymember Santiago was also the author of AB 19, which allows a first-time, full-time college student to waive the first year tuition regardless of his or her financial status. To be eligible for this program, students need to take at least 12 credits per semester. As one credit or unit costs $46 in the California Community College system, AB 19 could save students $1,104 for their first year, not including fees for textbooks and other costs.

When the bill was debated in 2017, it studied the 2014-15 academic year, when the California Community College system had more than 2.3 million students enrolled. At that time, there were about 400,000 first-time students, among which only 19,000 students were expected to be affected by the bill, as other financial aid was available to the majority of students.

AB 19 was estimated to cost California taxpayers $31 million based on the number of students in year 2014-15.

In the 2017-18 academic year, the system has almost 2.4 million students, based on the data provided by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. However, no specific number on how much AB 2 is going to cost has been released.

Along with AB 2, there were more than 100 bills that were introduced on Dec. 3, which reflects more than $40 billion in new spending, reported the Sacramento Bee.

A bill seeking to extend full-scope Medi-Cal to all illegal immigrants was also reintroduced by California Democratic state lawmakers, with an estimated cost of $3 billion. In addition, funding for K-12 schools is proposed to reach about $35 billion.

California incoming Gov. Garvin Newsom told the Sacramento Bee that “all of this will be whittled down and we all will live within our means” and “we’re not going to deviate from being fiscally prudent.”