AB 2: A Potential Game Changer for California Community College Students

This week legislators returned to Sacramento to begin the new legislative session, and Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), along with Assemblymembers Bonta (D-Oakland), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), and David Chiu (D-San Francisco), introduced AB 2. This bill would waive the fees for two years of community college for first time college students who are enrolled full-time.

Currently, the first year for first time college students is free if they sign up for a waiver, which was the result of a bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown last year creating the “California College Promise” program.

52% of Latino undergraduates in the U.S. are enrolled in the community colleges. In the California Community Colleges, Latino students constitute the largest ethnic group, making up 43.61% for the 2016-17 academic year. The community colleges are the major entry point for so many of our gente who are beginning their higher education journeys. This bill will be helpful for many students and their families who worry about the cost of college.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Assemblymember Santiago said, “Every student that comes through a community college should at least have the opportunity to earn their associate’s degree. It takes two years…but their travel through LACCD or any other community college ought to lead somewhere and it ought to be a public school.”

Free college isn’t a new idea in California. In 1960, the California Master Plan for Higher Education did lay out a plan for tuition free education, but there was room left for students to pay ‘fees’ for auxiliary services like housing and recreation.

AB 2 is a big deal for access and for helping our Latino students, but the fees to attend community college aren’t the only cost of attending college. There are cost of living expenses, technology (computers), books and materials, child care (for students who are parents), and transportation. These expenses are beyond the typical fees per unit and can still be a hindrance to low income students. So we have to get policymakers to think beyond the tuition, but for now, AB 2 is a good start and will help a lot of Californians.

What do you think?

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Adriana Maestas

Adriana Maestas

Adriana Maestas is a Southern California-based freelance writer and education professional. Her writing has been published in NBC Latino, KCET.org, BlogHer.com, Alternet, and The Electronic Intifada.

She has worked in the non-profit sector, in the K-12 system, and in higher education in various capacities. When she's not writing stories or working on media projects, Adriana trains instructors to teach online at the University of California, Irvine.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Irvine and a master’s degree in public policy from Claremont Graduate University.

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