Governor Jerry Brown’s signature of AB 19 in October 2017 lays the groundwork for the California College Promise in the nation’s most populated state. Once funded in 2018, it will become the nation’s only first-dollar state-funded Promise program and provide one year of support to first-time full-time community college students.
In addition to aiding students with tuition/fees, the Promise aims to promote successful outcomes. To this end, participating community colleges must partner with local school districts and/or four-year universities to establish an Early Commitment to College Program that will provide student, and their families, assistance in learning about postsecondary opportunities, completing college prep courses, and applying for college and financial aid.
We are very happy to share with you the following guest post from California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Oakley, who worked tirelessly with Assembly Member Miguel Santiago and other legislators on this important legislative framework. As he notes, “while more work needs to be done, we are all on our way.” Chancellor Oakley, CFCT stands with you in removing cost as a barrier to attending college.
When Governor Jerry Brown of California signed Assembly Bill 19, California joined a growing list of states that are embracing a bi-partisan, national effort to guarantee free college tuition to the millions of Americans who need it. In fact, The Campaign for Free College Tuition (CFCT) encompasses an inter-generational coalition of individuals and groups who believe today’s economy requires the country make higher education affordable for everyone if we are going to have a workforce with the skills needed for us to compete in the global marketplace.Int
In California, we couldn’t agree more -- and we’ve been working for years to fill that need, and fulfill our promise to the citizens of California. As the largest institutions of higher learning in the United States, serving 2.1 million students, our success here can only add to the momentum that CFTC is now experiencing all over the country! More than half of the states now are exploring how to make college tuition free
AB 19, authored by Los Angeles Assembly Member Miguel Santiago, establishes the California College Promise that will allow our Community Colleges to make the first year tuition free for first time, full-time California Community College students.
But AB 19 is not the only, nor even the first, promise our state has made to students. Because even before this new law, California has been a national leader in the College Promise movement. For more than 30 years, the California community college system has waived tuition for students who cannot afford it, with about 1 million current students receiving assistance under what is the most expansive free tuition program offered by any state. Formerly known as the Board of Governors Fee Waiver, the program's name is being changed to the California College Promise Grant. Through this benefit and other forms of state and federal student financial aid, we have been working hard to provide our students with the funds they need to take the courses we offer.
But the struggle to lower the full cost of attending college has only scratched the surface. Because attending a California community college -- or a college anywhere -- is still far from free. Going to college includes costs such as textbooks, transportation (all of our students commute from somewhere) food and housing. Many of our local campuses are supplementing what we already provide, by raising generous private donations that can be used for these -- and other costs. Because it will take everyone’s help -- even with our new law -- to provide the financial help our students need.
To be clear: AB 19 has not been funded yet, and colleges will have to implement a series of student success strategies to qualify for the funding that we expect will be included the governor’s January 2018 budget proposal.
But the chance to make community colleges tuition free for first-time, full-time students is a big step forward for us – and for the entire country. And while more work needs to be done, we are all on our way. We are happy to be part of the movement that CFCT is leading -- smart bipartisan policy helping states continue to play an important role in eliminating cost as a barrier to attaining a postsecondary education.
Eloy Ortiz Oakley is the chancellor for the 114-campus California Community Colleges, as of December 2016. Chancellor Oakley is a nationally recognized leader for implementing innovative programs and policies that help students, especially underserved students, succeed in college. In 2008, while superintendent of the Long Beach Community College District, Oakley established the Long Beach College Promise program, which establishes a clear pathway for local high school students to enter community college and then transfer to a university. The program has been replicated by numerous colleges and universities throughout California and served as a model for President Obama’s 2015 America’s College Promise initiative. Oakley was awarded the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award in 2014 and appointed to the University of California Board of Regents that same year. Oakley himself is a community college success story. After serving four years in the U.S. Army, he enrolled at Golden West College. He then transferred to the University of California, Irvine where he received his degrees of Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Analysis and Design and Master of Business Administration.
Our goal is to make higher education a possibility for every American, without regard to their financial circumstances.
We have a lot to do and not much time to do it, so your support is critical for our campaign to succeed. It’s with your investment that we can fundamentally reform how higher education is financed in this country, opening the doors to a more equitable society.
If you agree with our goal, our plan, and the urgency of the problem, we ask that you give what you can to help us write the next chapter in our nation’s history of continuously expanding access to universal, free education.