California to offer two years of free community college tuition

SDCCD Chancellor Dr. Constance Carroll announces the new two-year free tuition plan at a news conference.

Mesa Office of Communications

SDCCD Chancellor Dr. Constance Carroll announces the new two-year free tuition plan at a news conference.

Nyesha Harper, Staff Writer

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It is 1980 and the opportunity to go to college is available for anyone wanting to attend in the country. There are no worries about paying for books, health fees, course fees, and even parking permits. But as decades passed, the cost drastically rose for higher education. A full-time semester of college once cost less than filling up a tank of gas, but now going to college has become an afterthought for generations to come.

Over the last few decades, tuition costs have soared here in California, leaving many people to opt out of higher learning. Currently it cost in-state residents $46 per unit to attend community college, averaging about $1,400 per semester for a student enrolled full-time, more than 12 units. It’s a price tag that continues to put a strain on middle-class and lower-class working families. Prospective students are left taking out many loans, accumulating a lot of debt. According to, California students graduate with an average of $20,000 in debt. Now, one state leader is hoping to change the status quo by widening a program to invest in more student education.

High school students in California hoping to expand their educational career will soon have the opportunity to accomplish that goal with less of a financial burden.In August, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to increase the California College Promise program for free college tuition. The plan was only for first time community college students, but will now include a second year for nearly 33,000 individuals. That’s about 1.5% of students who attend a junior college program statewide. More than $42 million in the state’s 2019-2020 budget will go towards supporting the program. Funds for the program are being generated by the Proposition 98 General Fund. Prop 98 requires a certain percentage of the state’s budget to be spent on educational needs. Gov. Newsom is calling the extension a “meaningful step toward chipping away at the cost of higher learning for students and their families.”

Students in the San Diego Community College District are no stranger to these types of programs. The San Diego Promise program offers two years of free college to recent California graduates who attend college full time. According to the Mesa website, this program began back in 2016 to ensure students that have a lack of resources, will be granted an opportunity to achieve higher education status. It started with less than 200 students, and has bolstered to nearly 2,000. Darien Duong, an Outreach ambassador here at Mesa believes the program continues to grow because it gives students more freedom to not only go to school, but decide what they would like to major in during the first two-year period.

“Two years is a long time,” Duong said. “I’m still a first year and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do. If [he] extends the year to two years, a lot more students will go in to a community, to save money.”

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