By Juan Calvillo
Governor Gavin Newsom announced a change to the College Promise, from one year to two years tuition, during an event at East Los Angeles College on Aug. 29.
The College Promise, once known as the governors fee waiver for enrollment, is monies that are available for students to pay for enrolling in community college.
The event was just one part of Newsom’s “California for All” state budget, which was proposed early in 2019.
The proposed budget covered increases in lower and higher level education, as well as monies for emergency readiness and the pay down of unfunded pension liabilities.
For higher education, community colleges throughout the state will receive a proposed $402 million investment which includes the new College Promise of two years of community college tuition paid for first-time students.
Newsom talked about the position of California and where its diversity has placed it.
“You look around this room, this is America’s coming attraction folks. You know the future happens here first. Donald Trump eat your heart out,” said Newsom about the states promising and diverse people.
He said that the country’s politics was currently about focusing on what was different, not what unites people.
Focusing on optimism as the thing that was a uniting force for all people. He focused on the community college aspect of life saying it was not a time but a mindset.
He made it clear that community college was for anyone, at any stage of life and that its purpose was to add to, and advance people.
Newsom said that students in community college were doing something special.
“You are making dreams real here,” he said. Newsom also touched briefly on the fact that the College Promise was not nearly enough. He said things like, text books, transportation and housing were also important to take a look at for students. “This is just the beginning of the journey,” Newsom said.
He said the full cost of attending college would be something that would need to be talked about in Sacramento but didn’t specify a timeline.
Assemblyman Miguel Santiago gave background on the battle for the College Promise. “We started this a long time ago, when we were here on the community college board,” Santiago said.
“When we went to the legislature, he (Newsom) was Lieutenant Governor, but very few people remember that he signed off very quickly when we started talking about free community college. And that was one year. But, boy, talk about a guy who makes a commitment on a campaign trail and then follows through.”
Santiago said that Newsom had talked about a debt-free education and that through his proposed plans has been able to achieve it.
He said that every student that went through the community college system had their lives changed and that through the College Promise, first time students, returning students, and more Californians can change their lives by getting schooling.
ELAC’s Associated Student Union president, Brian Ha and a recipient of the college promise, Jocelyn Campos, gave brief speeches before the Governor’s announcement.
Both talked about the impact that the College Promise had on their college careers.
Ha said that he was allowed to flourish as both an academic and a student leader during his time at ELAC and that he attributed much of that to the College Promise.
Campos echoed a similar sentiment saying her experience with the program gave a sense of empowerment and allowed her to stay focused on school.
Academic Senate President Jeffery Hernandez said that something as momentous as the College Promise was once said to be impossible.
He said that despite this, it was happening and that it was something that was unique in the nation and that despite it being a set program it is helping students succeed.
He said many of the district colleges would benefit but that it really was important to ELAC.
“This kind of new law is particularly valuable for East LA college,” Hernandez said.