California assembly members push for free college tuition

MICHAEL JULIANO, Channels Staff

Within 30 days, Gov. Jerry Brown will decide whether or not to sign a bill that provides community college freshmen with a year of free tuition.

California Assembly Members Miguel Santiago, David Chiu, and Kevin McCarty met final approval Wednesday, Sept. 13, for Assembly Bill 19 to be considered by the governor.

A press release from the office of Santiago, who represents the Los Angeles district, addressed sector shifts in the economy as a reason to support this bill.

In 2025, California will face an estimated shortage of one million college-educated workers needed to sustain the state’s workforce,” the press release read.

Santiago relayed his message about how this bill could revolutionize communities through a phone call with The Channels.

“There is no stronger equalizer to our communities than an education,” Santiago said. “We’ve looked at the data with pell grants and it shows that students who aren’t under economic stress and have their classes covered full time, their graduation rates are 60 to 70 percent as opposed to 30 to 40 percent.”

When pressed to answer if this bill is about creating a more educated populace, Santiago said “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.”

The assemblyman expressed confidence in the governor’s office to approve this measure.

“This bill has bipartisan support, I’m feeling pretty good. If not then we’ll probably try to accomplish it through a ballot measure.”

Geoff Green, CEO of the SBCC Promise, expressed excitement about the bill’s progress and gave a conflicting report on its status.

“I don’t believe that Governor Brown is likely to sign AB 19,” Green said.

“I have been following the progress of AB 19, and am happy to see it is heading to the Governor’s desk. If it were signed into law, it would be a significant step in the right direction.”

Green believes the typical college student today is different from the typical student in 1967 and that our educational systems must evolve accordingly.

“Community college advocates in Sacramento believe that there is a 50/50 chance that Governor Brown will sign the bill,” Green said in a text after the interview.

The bill has passed, with bipartisan support, through the senate and assembly since being initially introduced Dec. 5, 2016. After its nearly four year climb up the state legislative branch, Santiago, Chiu, and McCarty will finally have their answers soon.