The Governor of California spoke to dozens of East Los Angeles College students in an effort to spread awareness about a free community college tuition plan.
The plan allows first-time and full-time students — including those who qualify under AB540 — to get their tuition covered for the first two years of community college.
This plan adds a second year of free tuition after an existing plan granting a first free year of tuition. That went into effect last school year.
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To qualify, students have to be attending a community college for the first time, and they have to be enrolled in at least 12 units each semester.
There's also no income requirement. As long as the student lives in California and has a high school diploma or the equivalent, he or she qualifies.
While two years of paid community college tuition is nice, it doesn't cover much else, so Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged the state has to go further to help students financially.
"Free community college means nothing if it's just to focus on tuition and not housing and the needs of the students that are out there struggling — living in and around the campus in cars or bunking up with friends or family members or God forbid, out in the streets and sidewalks," he said. "It's the full cost of attendance that has to be a full focus of our minds."
One of the biggest things that school officials at ELAC say they want to stress to potential students is that you don't have to be fresh out of high school to qualify for the free tuition — you just have to be a first time student.
"It kind of gave me hope because I am a psych major and a lot of the jobs require more school, and I specifically want to go for my Ph.D. I'm going to need a lot more money than that, so it kind of gave me a little relief," said student Kelly Rodriguez.
ELAC officials also say they have about 4,000 students who qualify, but only half of them are taking advantage of the free tuition.
Across the state, the second year of free tuition will help about 33,000 students at a cost of about $42 million.