The passage of Assembly Bill No. 19, which offers free tuition for California community college students, is piloting the start of a newfound future and eliminating barriers that blockade curious intellectuals from pursuing an education.

Before the spike in tuition, community college was a safe and affordable route for students who couldn’t afford to attend a “traditional” 4-year college. My professor, Gilbert Ramos, who graduated with a master’s degree in anthropology and from law school, once told my class that junior colleges were affordable back then.

“Tuition and college textbooks back then were worth less than today’s monthly rent,” he once said.

Totaling near $1,000 back in the 1980s, the cost of community college’s tuition and fees, has nearly doubled as of today. The low cost allowed him to explore multiple interests, without the burden of taking out loans. It allowed my professor to not only explore but to also evolve into a well-rounded person.

As time passed by, however, some community colleges have spiked up their tuition due to the “economic slowdown and decreased funding.” This in turn dissuades students from committing full-time and can instead slow down the process of transferring or graduating in the time span of two years.

When students are given a “special ticket” that waives them from paying their school fees, the bill offers a glimpse of hope and change to those aspiring for a better future. The bill’s steady but profound outcomes can lead to the development of core values, providing students with the extra push to pursue and explore their interests without the burden of paying college tuition.

Community college isn’t just a “dumbed-down” version of traditional college. We need to understand that community college is a institution that embodies diversity and offers students—whether it be a single mother or military veteran—to attain the “American Dream.”

Despite community colleges containing misconceived stereotypes, Pasadena City College alumni Ryan Liu, who is now attending Yale University, expressed how the two-year college taught him to “value each [student’s] story” and “not judge anyone by their past or present conditions, but by the height of their ambition for the future.”

With society’s emphasis on students embarking into a traditional university and receiving a “real college” degree, some feel pressured due to not knowing their career-oriented interests. This particular issue stems from high school, as the curriculum fails to teach students career explorations. Rather, the emphasis is on the amount of Advanced Placement (AP) courses taken, involvement in extracurriculars, and class rank.

We need to understand that community college students are faced with financial difficulties, wherein overpriced textbooks, tuition fees, and personal financial burdens deter most from fully committing to school. Especially as students are pursuing multiple part-time jobs to support their family, they are juggling with multiple things in their life, solely for the reason alone to receive an education.

The bill shouldn’t be just limited to California students as most would benefit from paying nil, especially when the price of attending a university or two-year colleges has skyrocketed way its peak. They aren’t given the opportunity to work part-time jobs and attend school like in the past. Instead, students may have to work multiple jobs, apply for scholarships and financial aid, and take out loans just to receive a paper documenting their intellectual growth.

If the tuition of receiving of an education further increases, then students would be deterred from receiving an education. It should go without saying, that the American Dream should not have a price tag.

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