More Californians may soon go to community college for free under a bill introduced by a Los Angeles Assemblyman, which passed in the California Assembly in May and will be heard in the state Senate next week.
Assembly Bill 2266, known as the “Free Community College for All” program, was introduced by Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside), and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) earlier this year.
If passed, the bill will expand California's fee waiver eligibility from first-time students to include returning students—those who have taken a break for two or more semesters—in the California College Promise program.
“I know that free community college will change the lives of all Californians,” Santiago said in a press conference statement February. “Educating communities empowers communities, plain and simple.”
The program was established in 2017 by Assembly Bill 19 to provide financial support for full-time, first-time students for their first year of education. It was later expanded in 2019 by adding the second year of tuition for eligible students.
However, students who have previously earned a degree or certificate from a university, college, or vocational school would still not be eligible for the newest fee waiver proposal.
Assemblyman McCarty said that the bill will allow more students to receive higher education and obtain more opportunities.
“Community College has a lot to offer and can provide many career and educational opportunities to hard-working Californians,” McCarty said. “Making community colleges free for all full-time students is a game-changer for Californians and another step towards providing a debt-free college throughout the state.”
During the 2020-21 school year, more than 33,000 California Community College students received a tuition waiver, according to Santiago’s office.
The California Community College Chancellor’s office estimates that about 41,532 returning students would be eligible for the new fee waiver. If the bill is signed into law, the state will pay about $5.7 million dollars per year for the program.
The Legislature included $25 million to expand the program in the state’s budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year. The bill is set to be heard by the Senate’s Appropriation Committee on Aug. 11.