Full-time in-state students in California would receive free tuition for their first year of community college under a state legislature bill signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown.
According to Assembly Bill No. 19, the California College Promise would waive fees for one academic year for first-year students who are enrolled in 12 or more semester units or the equivalent at the college and complete and submit either a Free Application for Federal Student Aid or a California Dream Act application.
California now joins a growing number of states that have established statewide free community college programs. New York, Hawaii, Arkansas, Nevada, and Rhode Island have all passed similar legislation. Nationally, the College Promise movement continues to grow rapidly, with now more than 200 programs in 42 different states.
(Next page: Details about funding and future enrollment predictions)
The bill, authored by Democratic Assembly members Miguel Santiago of Los Angeles, David Chiu of San Francisco and Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, passed the state legislature with bipartisan support.
The legislation is intended to address both the shortage of college-educated workers and declining community college enrollment by expanding affordable access to higher education.
“In 2025, California will face an estimated shortage of one million college-educated workers needed to sustain the state’s workforce,” said Santiago. “This bill isn’t about voting and polling numbers. When you talk to most reasonable people, whether it be a CEO or leader of any firm, some sort program leader, they want a more skilled workforce. It just makes economic sense.”
Lawmakers hope the bill also will attract more students to community college and will encourage them to pursue higher education.
“We are delighted that California has made the first year of community college free,” said Dr. Martha J. Kanter, the Executive Director of the College Promise Campaign. “By signing the California Promise bill into law, Gov. Jerry Brown is providing much-needed support for the state’s estimated 2.1 million community college students. Now more students in the Golden State who believed higher education was beyond their means will pursue college,” she said.
Some details of the bill, including funding allocations, must still be worked out, lawmakers said.