Big Changes Coming to California Community College Programs

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The California educational system is in for a big shakeup. Two new assembly bills will provide easier access to higher education for all, including two years of community college at no charge.

AB 2 proposed by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) expands upon AB 19 which Santiago got put into action in 2017. AB 19 waived some or all community college fees for one year, but now with AB 2 he has successfully doubled that length.

“Community college changed my life,” said Assemblymember Santiago in his press release. “It gave me choices and opportunities and it opened doors. I know that free community college will change the lives of all Californians. To educate a community is to empower a community.  I am thrilled that the Governor signed this bill today and that all students will now have access to an affordable higher education.”

AB 2 will waive some or all of the fees for first time community college students. Students are made eligible by just applying for either Federal Student Aid or the California Dream Act. Students must also be enrolled in school full time, or 12 units per semester. Exceptions will be made in special cases. Additionally, students who have already received a degree or certificate from an institution of higher learning will be exempt from AB 2.

While free education has been a topic of conversation for quite some time, California is working to make that a reality for many. However, just getting an education is not the only barrier many Californians face.

AB 1278 seeks to address other issues college students may face, such as homelessness and food insecurity. Many local schools have food pantries in place, but AB 1278 requires colleges to provide online resources for students dealing with homelessness and food insecurity.

According to Alex Boekelheide, Pasadena City College’s special assistant to the Superintendent, PCC’s food pantry program hands out over 3,000 lbs. of food per week. The Lancer Pantry has been fully operational since the Spring Semester of 2017.

Glendale Community College also has a pantry program that helps students in need. Food pantries allow for students to not only feed themselves, but feed their families as well. According to GCC Public Information Coordinator Wendy Grove, GCC has had a list of resources available to students for quite some time.

The issue of food insecurity has been taken to a national level recently. Congressman Adam Schiff has been conducting meetings with local community colleges to better understand food insecurity in support of his proposed “Food for Thought” bill.

As previously reported by CV Weekly, Schiff’s bill would provide grants to community colleges across the nation so they can start their own food pantries. The bill is still in its early stages after being introduced in late July.