AB19 a Big Win for California Students


For too many California students, college is out of reach for one reason: they just can’t afford it.

But a bill signed last Friday by Governor Jerry Brown will now make it possible for more students, especially students of color or those from low-income families, to embark on a college education.

Make no mistake: this is a pretty big deal. The California Community Colleges is the largest system of higher education in the country, made up of 114 colleges and serving 2 million students each year. Community colleges are not just for those who want to transfer to a four-year university. They also provide workforce training, basic skills courses in English and math, and prepare students for a variety of certificate programs in the trades.

Any steps we can take to remove barriers to education and reducing student debt are a good thing. And unlike the previous system of waiving tuition for students below a certain income, the new law says that any first time student at a community college can attend for free. As a first generation low-income student of color, financial aid was the only way I could afford college. And college changed my life.

The new program will be called the California College Promise and is modeled on successful community-based promise partnerships we’ve seen spring up in Oakland and Richmond. Later this year, Berkeley will launch its own Promise program, which will award scholarships of up to $11,000 to eligible students.

Efforts like this are crucial to helping students most at-risk of not continuing their education or training, to see a place for themselves at community college –regardless of their chosen path. The California Promise is still a long way off from the free college tuition that Senator Bernie Sanders called for on the campaign trail -- and enjoyed in many European countries-- but it’s an important step and we must celebrate it. Thank you, Governor Brown!

Jesse Arreguin