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Free Community College Bill Advances in California Legislature

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Hopes of attending community college for free may soon become a reality for thousands of students in California.

Last week, the state Assembly Committee on Higher Education passed Assembly Bill 2 which seeks to make the first two years of community college attendance free for all first-time students, irrespective of their income. The bill was passed by a vote of 11-1.

Introduced by lawmaker Miguel Santiago in Dec. 2018, the bill aims to make receiving an education more affordable and accessible for everyone.

“When college degrees are unaffordable, our economy suffers,” Santiago said. “If we’re going to tackle income inequality and empower the next generation to succeed, we need to release the pressure on young people to take out loans they can’t afford.”

The bill is an extension of College Promise, a state-run program that allowed community colleges to waive tuition fees for eligible California residents during their first year at an in-state community college.

The bill has been referred to the main legislature for a vote. If it passes, it will need to be signed by the governor before it can be enacted.

At the federal level, Democrats have also been trying to pave the way for a debt-free higher education system in the U.S. Last year, the congressional committee on education introduced the Aim Higher Act bill that would largely overhaul the Higher Education Act.

The bill seeks to provide every student an opportunity to earn a debt-free degree by investing in federal student aid, expanding the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and cracking down on predatory for-profit institutions that target students and veterans with expensive, low-quality programs.

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