Bill pushes for free community college

By Samantha Bartholomew

A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Oct. 13 marks a continuance of the effort to make the first year of community college free for thousands of California students.

Assembly Bill 19 opens up the possibility that California’s community colleges will offer free tuition to all full-time first-year students, regardless of financial need. An action that would cost the state $31 million annually.

The bill’s passing would put the “California College Promise” program in place, allowing students to apply for a waiver for their course fees.

In order to qualify for the program, students must apply for the fee waiver and commit to taking at least 12 units per semester.

A similar promise initiative has already been implemented at Riverside City College and Moreno Valley College as a nationwide response to a study done by Complete College America, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit, after its results showed that the average student takes up to five years to earn a degree.

“The reality is that our system of higher education costs too much, takes too long and graduates too few,” the report said

Those accepted into the program receive free tuition, priority registration for up to 15 units and grants for up to $250 to cover book expenses.

According to the California Community College Association, an estimate of  19,000 students would be eligible for the fee waiver, which will cost the state about $31 million annually.