A bill that would make the first two years of school free for many of California's 2 million community college students has passed its first legislative hurdle.
The state Assembly Committee on Higher Education passed AB-2 by an 11-1 margin on March 19. The bill is an extension of the California College Promise, a program established in 2017 that allowed community colleges to waive fees for the first year. This new bill would waive fees for a second year as well.
The bill was written by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, who represents areas of Downtown Los Angeles.
"When college degrees are unaffordable, our economy suffers," Santiago said. "If we're going to tackle income inequality and empower the next generation to succeed, we need to release the pressure on young people to take out loans they can't afford."
Adding a second year would mean students can earn a two-year associate's degree or transfer to a university without having to pay any tuition.
The new bill also expands the pool of students who are eligible for free tuition. Previously, the fee waiver was only available to first-time students. Under the new bill, anyone who doesn't already have a degree would be eligible.
The bill will have to pass through the main legislature and be signed by the governor before it can be enacted.