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California Legislature

First year of California community colleges could be free under bill headed to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk

A graduation ceremony for Glendale Community College on June 14, 2017. (Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)
A graduation ceremony for Glendale Community College on June 14, 2017. (Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)

Hoping to entice more students into California's community college system, lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill to make students' first year free.

The Assembly gave final approval to a measure by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) that waives fees for first-time full-time students.

"We know that if a student goes full time, a student’s success rate is much higher than if they go part time," Santiago said on the Assembly floor.

Arguing that a free first year of community college would help serve as a bridge for high school students who wouldn't otherwise continue school, Santiago described his bill, AB 19, as a "huge step to make a college-going community and culture in California."

Legislators introduced a slew of measures to tackle the cost of college. The most sweeping measures, such as an Assembly Democrat's plan to make attending state universities "debt-free," fizzled.

AB 19 still faces a significant hurdle from Brown. His finance department opposes the measure, expressing concern that the aid would be available to all students regardless of need, instead of targeting financially strapped Californians.

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