California will now provide first-time, full-time students in the state free tuition for two years of community college, joining nearly a dozen other states that promote similar programs.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation to include $42.6 million in the state’s 2019-20 budget to support a second year of free tuition for about 33,000 community college students in California. The governor’s office announced Tuesday that Newsom is traveling the state to promote the free community college option.
“This is real help for students trying to improve their lives and build their future,” Newsom said in a statement. “No one can argue with the fact that the full cost of attending institutions of higher learning is still far too high ― both in California and across the country. But by offering two years of community college tuition-free, California is taking a meaningful step toward chipping away at the cost of higher learning for students and their families.”
Previously, the California College Promise program offered one year of free tuition for first-time, full-time students who attend community college in the state. Newsom’s signed legislation expands the program to cover two years, something he said he’s talked about since taking office.
The California Community Colleges system is the largest higher education system in the country, serving about 2.1 million students, or a quarter of community college students in the U.S., according to the governor’s statement.
California is one of 12 states, along with the District of Columbia, that have created promise programs, according to the Campaign for Free College Tuition. The nonprofit coalition said that an additional eight states are working on some legislative activity to enact programs.
Some 2020 presidential candidates, such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have called for making public four-year colleges and universities tuition-free, as well as eliminating student debt. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) does not support free college for all but has talked about supporting free community college programs.
According to a June poll from PSB Research, more than 70% of respondents agree their state should provide free tuition at public colleges or universities to any academically qualified student.