Community college students across California will now be able to get their tuition waived for their first year of college through Assembly Bill 19. Signed into law earlier last month by Governor Jerry Brown, the bill establishes an easier and more affordable route for students to attend community colleges.
“It’s great that there is momentum behind this movement to [open college for] more people across the state,” said PCC spokesman Alex Boekelheide. “[However], there is still a lot of work to do.”
This fall, PCC debuted the first semester of the PCC Promise, helping 146 first-year students out of high school, attend PCC without needing to pay for their tuition.
“Dr. Vurdien really put his foot on the gas and made sure we saw [the PCC Promise] to fruition,” said Boekelheide.
However, after the first year of college, students will still have to deal with financial barriers that may arise and hinder their educational goals.
Last month, KPCC reported about the expensive route community college has become for students in California, citing a report done by The Campaign For College Opportunity, which stated that around 40 percent of students attending community college will take approximately six years to transfer to a four-year university.
Some community college students may not have a clear idea of what they want to study and therefore might take time to explore different academic areas. As encouraging as it is to figure out what to study, time means money and financial barriers can discourage students from attending college.
“We’ve seen that the students coming to community colleges are the ones who are probably from lower socioeconomic statuses,” said Associated Students President, Kiely Lam. “If we are able to give free tuition, then that’s another barrier taken away for students to pursue higher education.”
Governor Jerry Brown’s push to aid community college students is one way that will break the socioeconomic barrier that separates what kinds of students attend community college.
“There is a class bias in our education system due to the expensive nature of it,” said Associate English Professor Robert Oventile. “This move on the Governor’s part impacts that socioeconomic class divide, to a degree.”
As a PCC alumnus himself, Oventile recalls that when he attended PCC in the late 1970s, and early 1980s, community college was more affordable than it is now.
“Our family knew the cost was a lot cheaper than going to a UC or Cal State,” said Oventile. “[Attending PCC] wasn’t free, but it was completely affordable [compared to what] it is now.”
Though it may take some time until everything is implemented, the state of California continues to make strides towards helping students pursue higher education. PCC is on board and will continue to do what can be done to aid students.