Free community college to come to full vote

Another step has been taken statewide for proponents of free higher education.

By Matthew Royer, News Editor

Valley College is one of 115 campuses to offer California Promise to eligible students. (Griffin O'Rourke / Valley Star)

After passing the committee stage in the California State Assembly, the extension of the Promise Program will be introduced to the full chamber for debate and vote.

Last month, legislation presented by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) and endorsed by the LACCD went up for a vote in the Assembly Higher Education Committee. AB 2266, also known as “Free Community College For All,” looks to expand California College Promise to every high school graduate in the state, no matter their financial status or individual educational plan, as previously reported by The Star.

The committee passed the legislation by a vote of nine to zero, with three assembly members choosing to abstain from the vote.

“AB 2266 will expand the California College Promise program to provide two

years of tuition-free community college to all full-time students, whether they are first-time or

returning students,” stated a press release distributed by the LACCD. “While Sen. Joe Manchin stalled expanding free higher education federally, California has a chance to take a step forward and lead on this issue.”

Over 33 thousand community college students currently take advantage of the program in the state. Started in 2017 through Santiago’s previous legislation and extended in 2019 to provide an extra year for eligible students, Promise offers counseling and career opportunities in addition to free tuition.

In Los Angeles, Promise currently boasts a 75 percent success rate, meaning all but a quarter of students enrolled in the program graduate or transfer. Promise students are predominately people of color coming from low-income households.

“A higher education continues to be the greatest lever for economic and social mobility, especially for first-generation and lower income college attendees,” said Chancellor Francisco C. Rodriguez in a press release. “This forwardlooking bill extends the benefits from the very successful College Promise Program model to all full-time, returning students, improving access, equity and college completion.”

Two other pieces of LACCD-endorsed legislation passed the committee stage, as Assemblymember Isaac Bryan’s (D-Los Angeles) AB 1913 and AB 2425 were both sent through bipartisanly for a total vote. The former establishes a first-of-a-kind Associate’s Degree in climate change education, while the latter will provide stipends for formerly incarcerated students who enroll in a state community college.

A date has still not been set for further debate on AB 2266. However, Santiago still has one other LACCD endorsed bill set for committee action, AB 2371, which, if passed, would extend Promise to CSU students statewide.

Promise currently serves six percent of students at Valley College; if passed by both chambers and signed by the governor, 100 percent of students would become covered by the tuition dismissal.

“I hope it passes,” said Cynthia Lopez, LAVC Promise's first year experience coordinator. “Promise is designed to help [students] navigate college. This extension will ensure that current and returning students, regardless of status, will reach successful completion of their degrees and educational goals.”

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