Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Bill Providing Free First Year of Community College to New Students Statewide

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the California College Promise last Friday, an initiative that, if funded in the next state budget, would provide one year of free community college for new students.

Assembly Bill 19 was authored by Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago of Los Angeles, David Chiu of San Francisco and Kevin McCarty of Sacramento. The legislation passed both the Assembly and the Senate last month with bipartisan support.

“In 2025, California will face an estimated shortage of one million college-educated workers needed to sustain the state’s workforce,” said Assembly Member Santiago in a statement. “This bill isn’t about voting and polling numbers. When you talk to most reasonable people, whether it be a CEO or leader of any firm, some sort of program leader, they want a more skilled workforce. It just makes economic sense.”

The California College Promise will cover tuition and fees for first-time students to attend any of the state’s 114 community colleges for one academic year.

Those eligible can be college credential- or degree-seeking students who in addition to being provided a fee waiver, will also be required to enroll for at least 12 credit hours and to receive guidance and academic support to ensure they have the resources to graduate, according to the College Promise Campaign. CPC says the goal is not only to increase enrollment but to improve academic performance and completion rates for community colleges in the state.

“By embracing statewide free community college for one year, California is investing in our students and taking a significant step to strengthen families, communities, and our economy. We are grateful to Governor Jerry Brown, California education leaders, and other public officials who led this effort,” said Dr. Jill Biden, the honorary chair of the College Promise Campaign National Advisory Board, in a statement.

“By signing the California Promise bill into law, Gov. Jerry Brown is providing much-needed support for the state’s estimated 2.1 million community college students,” said Dr. Martha J. Kanter, executive director of the College Promise Campaign. “Now more students in the Golden State who believed higher education was beyond their means will pursue college.”

California joins New York, Hawaii, Arkansas, Nevada and Rhode Island in passing legislation this year to establish statewide free community college programs, according to CPC. More than 200 programs in 42 states are part of the College Promise movement.

The statewide effort aligns with local efforts through the Long Beach College Promise, which was signed into a permanent program by Brown on Friday as well.


“This legislation [AB19] helps California to make a wise investment in education and training that will pay great dividends for students and our state,” said Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser in a statement.

Under the Long Beach College Promise, first-year tuition at Long Beach City College (LBCC) is covered for all students in the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) who enroll in the fall immediately after high school graduation, according to local educators.

“California’s leaders are demonstrating vision by investing in its future. They understand the role of community colleges in generating the skilled workforce needed for a prosperous economy,” said LBCC Superintendent-President Reagan F. Romali in a statement. “Making the first year tuition-free will provide more state residents with greater access to higher education, ease affordability concerns and help students gain the knowledge and skills they need for tomorrow’s jobs.”

Since 2012, LBCC has modeled this type of program, offering over 13,000 free semesters to students, Romali added.

The LBCP also guarantees admission to Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) for LBUSD first-time freshman applicants and LBCC transfer students who meet the necessary requirements.

CSULB has received more than 92,000 applications for about 8,200 seats in the class for the fall 2017 semester, according to university officials.

“We know families struggle with paying for college. By saving money on tuition, community college transfer students will gain greater access to a college diploma,” said CSULB Jane Close Conoley in a statement. “In addition to free college, I’m pleased this initiative sets a statewide foundation for a seamless approach to help students advance along the pre-K through college pipeline.”

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