And Thomas Cathey
The California State Assembly Education Committee approved AB-2 on March 11 with the intention of extending the impact of AB-19, the California College Promise, for tuition-free community college for a second year. The grant promised a year of tuition-free community college to first-time full-time students replacing the Board of Governors fee waiver, and now AB-2 will add a second free year.
This year Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), alongside other Democrats in the California Assembly including Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), wrote AB-2 to extend the effects of AB-19. The Los Rios Community College District, along with student representatives from all four Los Rios Colleges, has shown strong public support of the bill.
Brian King, chancellor of the LRCCD, supports the bill and hopes to see it approved in the near future.
“That second year [of free tuition] is a logical next step,” King said. “I think the message to students, that fees are not a barrier, is a really positive message, because people will know what a great option our Los Rios community colleges are.”
McCarty’s reasons for supporting the bill go beyond the financial situations of individuals in community college. His focus is on the future impact that the bill may have in regards to the United States and its global economic competitiveness.
“California’s economy will require about two million college students with new academic degrees by 2030,” McCarty said in a January press release. “By providing two years of free community college, California will help more students graduate with less debt, and will grow the number of degree and certificated workers needed to compete in the global economy.”
AB-2 was amended by the California State Assembly on Jan. 30 and later again amended by the Committee on Higher Education on March 19, which passed and referred the bill with 11 “Ayes” to 1 “Noes.” As of April 3, the education committee has referred the bill to the assembly Committee on Appropriations who have not set a date to hear it yet.
Because the bill requires an appropriation of Proposition 98 funding, it will require 57 votes in the California State Assembly before being given to the state Senate, where it will require 27 votes.
The Proposition 98 General Fund provides K-12 funding and approximately two-thirds of the funding for community colleges, including $46 million for implementation of the California College Promise Initiative’s first year.
Rebeca Rico-Chavez, Associated Student Body President at American River College, is also a strong proponent of AB-2. On March 27 she, along with other student representatives from Los Rios colleges, visited the Assembly floor in Sacramento to lobby in support of the bill.
“Regardless of financial background people should be able to come to community college and not have to worry about tuition,” Rico-Chavez said.
Rico-Chavez said that although she hasn’t heard a lot of criticism of the bill, she did hear one assemblymember say that they believe that the money that will be appropriated for AB-2 should go towards other forms of financial aid.
After the process of voting has concluded and if it is passed by both the Senate and Assembly, the bill will then be sent to the Governor’s office.
Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed his budget for the 2019 – 2020 fiscal year on Jan. 10. In his budget he appropriates Proposition 98 funding for the addition of a second year to the California College Promise.
In the proposed 2019 – 2020 budget, Newsom allocated an additional $40 million specifically intended to extend the California College Promise Initiative for a second year for full-time students.
According to Newsom’s budget, $5 million will be allocated to the California Community College Chancellor’s Office to expand outreach around the California College Promise.
The budget must be voted on and approved between June 15 and July 1, for the following fiscal year. Newsom’s proposed budget is in line with his campaign promises which included funding a second year of free community colleges.
The Public Policy Institute of California released a poll on Dec. 12, 2018 in which 47 percent of likely voters stated that tuition-free community college should be a “very high or high priority” for Gov. Newsom.
“Community college changed my life,” assemblymember Santiago said in a January press release. “It gave me choices and opportunities and it opened doors. I know that free community college will change the lives of all Californians. To educate a community is to empower a community.”