California to provide two years of community college tuition-free

California Governor Gavin Newsom (left) and state Assemblymember Miguel Santiago visit East Los Angeles College on Thursday, August 29 to talk about the expansion of the California College Promise program, which now provides free tuition for two years for first-time, full-time students.

California this week announced that it will join other states in providing the first two years of community college tuition-free for first-time, full-time students.

This move comes after Governor Gavin Newsom proposed that the state budget cover students by expanding the California College Promise program, which had provided one year free of tuition.  

The 2019-2020 state budget includes $42.6 million to support a second year of free tuition for approximately 33,000 students.

“This is real help for students trying to improve their lives and build their future,” said Newsom in a statement. “No one can argue with the fact that the full cost of attending institutions of higher learning is still far too high – both in California and across the country. But by offering two years of community college tuition-free, California is taking a meaningful step toward chipping away at the cost of higher learning for students and their families.”

The state’s community college system is the largest of its kind in the country, serving roughly a quarter of community college students in the country — that’s around 2.1 million students across 115 colleges and 78 educational centers. 

The state budget makes historic investments in areas that impact the student experience at community colleges, including $9 million for college students who are homeless or experiencing housing insecurity and $5 million to support veteran resource centers at community colleges. Additionally, a one-time increase of $4.75 million will support workforce development programs at some community colleges.

On Thursday, August 29, Newsom visited East Los Angeles College to talk about the program, and heard from students who have benefitted from free tuition.

He was joined by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago who was the original author of Assembly Bill No. 19, which proposed the tuition coverage for two years. 

“We know the cost barriers to earning a degree are driving California students and families into debt, and deepening income inequality across the country” said Santiago. “That’s why we’ve taken decisive action to make our community colleges tuition-free for two years; giving our students the freedom to pursue higher education, without the pressure to take on debt they can’t afford.  This is a down payment on our children’s future, and I’m grateful to Governor Newsom for his leadership on this issue.”

To qualify, students must submit either a FAFSA or CA DREAM Act application, and cannot already receive fee waivers. They must also be first-time, full-time college students.

Along with California, 11 other states have put forth statewide promise programs.

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