The Californian

First year of community college free

Michelle Kupperman, Staff Writer

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Receiving a college education just got a whole lot cheaper. 

The first year of community college will be free in California for the upcoming school year thanks to Assembly Bill 19, which was signed into law late last year by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The law creates the California College Promise by providing what is effectively free tuition for the initial year of community college for first-time students who apply for it.

 “I think this law is extremely beneficial in encouraging high school students to at least try out college if they weren’t planning on going,” said senior Hannah Proctor. “For students who don’t know what they want to do, being able to have a free year of college can be less stressful since now there is a lot of pressure to pick a major going into freshman year.”

The California College Promise hopes to create structured pathways for students while reducing cost of education. 

Students must apply for the fee waiver and take at least 12 credits per semester. With this law in effect, students will save approximately $1,100 annually. This figure is based on taking 24 credits with the average cost of $46 per credit. 

“California is investing in our students and taking a significant step to strengthen families, communities, and the economy,” said Dr. Jill Biden, the honorary chair of the College Promise Campaign National Advisory Board. 

But there are ongoing concerns over the law creating new and perpetuating Proposition 98 general fund costs that are not part of the governor’s budget plan. The loss of revenues could reduce funding for community college districts by $30 to $50 million.

Questions still loom over how the state plans to pay for this “free year of college education” and if the quality of education will be affected by the decrease in funding.

The community college system predicts 19,000 students will be eligible for the fee waiver, which will cost California about $31 million annually, and may be even more if the idea of free tuition encourages new students to enroll, according to ABC News. 

This doesn’t mean community college is completely free for the first year. Students will be charged additional fees for classes, educational tools such as internet use, and student activities. 

“If more community colleges take part in the California College Promise, the number of students who go to community college after high school will increase,” said Haley Stultz, Cal’s college and career coordinator. “I believe the goal of the California College Promise is great and could potentially change the community college system.”

Supporters of this law believe it will have a positive impact on education completion and performance, while decreasing barriers to college access. In addition, this college-going culture can impact thousands of students and create an environment where education is accessible for all. 

“It’s really about creating the environment and alignment that will help students finish college,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Oakley.

Many students are proponents of this law because they believe that everyone should have access to higher level education.

“I believe that those in lower income areas will now have an easy accessible way to get more education without the pressure of how to pay for the first year in their way,” said Proctor.

This new state law can draw in new students who wouldn’t otherwise enroll.

“Community College can be a stepping stone to even higher education.” said senior Alina Verzi.

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