New community college students in California may soon see a surprising number on their tuition balance: $0.
Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), who proposed Assembly Bill 19, thinks it will prompt as many as 19,000 students who might not have seen college as a possibility to pursue higher education.
“What we’re truly talking about is creating a college-going culture in our community,” Santiago said during a phone interview Monday.
But the bill faces some serious opposition, namely from Gov. Jerry Brown’s finance department. That office has argued that the bill will cost the state more than $30 million in part by giving waivers to students who don’t need the financial help, “inconsistent with the administration’s efforts to target financial aid to the state’s neediest students.”
In the last three decades, more than 5 million low-income California residents have already received tuition waivers through a program called the Board of Governors Fee Waiver.
Yet Santiago, who served on the Los Angeles Community College Board, pushes back at the idea that money will go to students who don’t need it. “It’s easy to pontificate from the Ivory Tower,” he said, but “the rich kids aren’t the ones going to community college who would benefit from this.”
And, he added, divided among the state’s 114 community colleges, $30 million works out to about $263,000, or a bloated administrative salary or two.
“Anytime there’s money for students, I’m always all for it,” said Jesse Wagner, a full-time Berkeley City College student who right now receives a Board of Governors fee waiver — about $600 this semester — to help pay for school.
Wagner grew up in Albany and worked in sales for several years after high school before enrolling in college, partially for financial reasons and partially because he didn’t know what he wanted to study.
“I wish that I had gone right into school,” he said. “If you can get in for free and try it out, once you get your foot in the door, a lot of other doors open.”
Some local community colleges are also backing the idea.
“AB 19 is a catalyst for change and student success, and that is why our college district is a co-sponsor of the bill,” Thuy Nguyen, president of Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, wrote in an email. “The bill has the ability to enable students to believe that college is possible.”
The proposal’s future isn’t clear, but the bill isn’t necessarily…