(Update) Free Community College for Qualifying Freshman

Saddleback College's Financial Aid Office sports on a arrow shaped whiteboard sign providing instructions for convenience. (Daniela Sanchez/Lariat)

Saddleback College’s Financial Aid Office sports on a arrow shaped whiteboard sign providing instructions for convenience. (Daniela Sanchez/Lariat)

California assembly members have proposed a bill to allow first-year community college students to receive free tuition for their first year. The California College Promise Assembly Bill 19 has been signed by California Governor Jerry Brown last Friday.

The bill itself states that its intentions are to encourage high school students to take college classes by dual enrollment,as well as encourage high school graduates to join colleges who are at transfer-level English and math courses.

The bill is designed to encourage more students to pursue earning associate’s degrees and certificates that could result in more successful transferring rates for community colleges in California.

This writers of this bill want more community college students to be able to transfer to a California State University or a University of California. They want more people to graduate college with a baccalaureate degree, which can allow more students to be employed.

If the bill passes, then it is up to the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges to distribute funding among the community college districts.

The current law states that community colleges charge students $46 per unit per semester through enrollment fees. Full-time students taking 12-19 units have to pay $552-$874 dollars. This doesn’t cover other costs such as textbooks and parking.

PEW charitable trusts reports that community college students are still accumulating debt despite the fact that there are lower fees. Students are dropping out because of the debt.

In 2015, the American Association of Community Colleges reported 72 percent of community college students received aid in general. Sixty-two percent of community college students are receiving their aid from the federal government.

This has to lead to some critics of the AB 19, because financial aid programs, such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Pell Grants, already exist.

Advocates of the bill argue that the bill’s policies will be beneficial for all of those who qualify for this grant. The bill reached the governor’s desk in September according to the district office of Miguel Santiago, co-writer for AB 19. 

Now that the bill has been approved, California freshmen who meet the qualifications in the bill will get their first free year of college.

It may not be too late to help out community college students currently attending this year. In fact, FAFSA has already opened applications this month for the 2018-2019 school year. The deadline to apply for FAFSA is June 30 2018.

Check out Saddleback’s Financial Aid website for more information.