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Legislators rally for free Community College

AB 2 Would make a AA Degree free of Charge

By Sean Brown, December 4, 2018 5:47 pm

Today, a group of legislators and community leaders stood united at the Los Angeles Trade Technical College to unveil Assembly Bill 2, a measure to waive fees for an AssociatesDegree in California. The bill, jointly authored by Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), was introduced yesterday on the first day of the 2018-19 legislative session to capitalize on the implementation of AB 19 (Santiago), the “California College Promise” enacted in 2017, which made the first year of community college free for all first-time, full-time students. The fall 2018 semester represents the first round of students who were able to take advantage of free, first-year community college fees under that law. AB 2 represents an initiative to waive the fees for Year Two – making an AA Degree free of charge.

“In the fight against income inequality, a free education is the greatest instrument we have,” said Assemblymember Santiago, primary author of the bill. “We owe this effort to the students entering community college this year; we owe it to the economy of California – the 5th largest in the world; and most importantly, we owe it to our children. 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.”

“When Los Angeles launched our College Promise program, we were determined to put more than just a degree in reach for our students — we aimed to hand every young person the keys to success in the classroom, in the workforce, and in their careers,”said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “One year of tuition-free community college has already yielded real progress among our young people, but our promise will remain incomplete unless we fund year two statewide. With Assemblymember Santiago’s leadership, we can meet our commitment to equal opportunity for all — and ensure that no one’s zip code will ever define their future.”

“The Los Angeles Community College District mission is to transform students’ lives through education, not to create tuition debt. LACCD stands proud and united with AssemblymembersSantiago, Chiu, McCarty, and Bonta, Mayor Garcetti and our college colleagues throughout the state in strong support of this landmark legislation to make our state’s community colleges tuition-free and provide college access to all Californians,” LACCD Chanceloor Francisco C. Rodriguez said.

The joint authors of the bill stated:

“Students across the country face unprecedented challenges,” said Assemblymember Chiu.  “Whether it be the cost of tuition, finding affordable housing, or paying off student loans, it is crushingly expensive to be a student today. Last year, we took a major step towards making college more affordable by guaranteeing one year of free community college.  We now pick up where we left off by proposing two years of free community college in California.”

“Too many California college students find themselves burdened with crippling college debt, making it difficult for them to buy a home, raise a family and contribute to our economy. Free community college would good for our students and well as for our economy.” Assemblymember McCarty.

“When I meet with and hear from young people, including my 19-year-old and 13-year-old daughters’ friends and classmates, one of the things they worry about most is how they can pay for their dream of going to college without going into mountains of debt,” said Assemblymember Bonta. “In addition, if California is to meet its future workforce demands, we need to make higher education more accessible and affordable. I’m proud to be a joint author on AB 2 because the cost burden on our students is simply too great.”

Like its predecessor bill, AB 2 will likely raise significant questions on how to secure funding for the proposal. Even after Santiago’s first bill was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, his own State Department of Finance opposed the measure on fiscal grounds, noting that the bill createsignificant new and ongoing Proposition 98 General Fund costs.” The Chancellor’s Office estimated that waiving the $46 per unit fee for first-time students for an entire year would cost about $31 million in Prop 98 General Funds for about 19,000 eligible students. The bill was signed into law without funding on the premise that those details would get hashed out in fiscal year 2018-19.

The national movement for free college access and educationhas been on the rise since the 2016 presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders who elevated the issue. The question becomes: how do you secure funding? Ultimately, California’s newly elected Governor Gavin Newsom will have to appropriate budget funds to roll out Santiago’s newly introduced proposal.

AB 2 is expected to be heard sometime in early March.

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