Senate Bill 893 makes community college free for San Mateo County residents – Scot Scoop News

Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 893, making community college free for most San Mateo County residents.

The bill was passed on September 30, 2022 and is expected to come into effect in the spring of 2023 with the start of the next school semester.

Funded by local taxpayer dollars, SB 893 allows the San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD) to waive tuition, covering all tuition for low-income students, undocumented students and all students in need of financial support.

“It will give more people the opportunity to have an education, which is what we need,” said Andrea Morales, president of the Associated Students of the College of San Mateo (ASCSM).

“Community college, historically, was created as an opportunity for people to go to college for free. It was the initial mission. ”

—Joshua Moon-Johnson

In recent years, community college enrollment rates have declined sharply, primarily due to financial hardships related to COVID-19. According to Morales, only the College of San Mateo (CSM) lost about 13% of its students during the pandemic.

Tuition is currently $46 per unit, which equates to $138 for most one-year courses. With the help of SB 893, not only will all tuition be waived, but colleges will cover all additional attendance costs. This includes textbooks, housing, parking, transportation and meals.

“We have already waived our parking fees for students traveling to campus,” SMCCCD Chancellor Michael Claire said.

Free parking for all students is the first of many steps the district is taking to make community college more affordable.

“If you go to school full time, it means you don’t have the opportunity to earn as much money working. Overall, going to college, even if tuition is free, is very expensive,” said Joshua Moon-Johnson, vice president of student services at San Mateo College.

The College of San Mateo (CSM) offers many resources to its students to encourage and guide them through their education. (Kate Ridgway)

SB 893 is monumental for many students who may not have had the support necessary to enable them to go to college. The bill provides a resource for students who do not qualify for other financial aid programs within community colleges, such as the Promising scholarship for first-generation students taking full-time courses.

There are approximately 2,000 students enrolled in the Promise Scholars program, according to Claire, totaling approximately $3.2 million in support provided. The Promise Scholarship Program will not be affected, serving as another financial aid system alongside SB 893.

“We are fortunate to live in an area where we derive substantial income from property taxes, and we believe we can essentially absorb the cost of the last registration fees. For next year, we have set aside $6 million for this program,” Claire said.

With all of these financial support programs and the millions of dollars set aside to help students, the SMCCCD is working to restore the original purpose of community colleges.

Many people remember when community college was completely free not too long ago.

“I went to Cañada College, and community college was free. I paid for the books, but everything else was free. Parking was free and my entry fee was free. It was great. I graduated with zero student debt and got a great job right out of college. I hope students can have the same experiences as students of my generation,” Claire said.

The district sought support for students due to the unique challenges of living in the Bay Area.

“Federal financial support policies do not fully address the cost of living in San Mateo County,” Moon-Johnson said. “The important thing about SB 893 is that it’s specific to San Mateo County, which has the highest cost of living in the United States.”

SB 893 is only a pilot, which means that in five years it will expire. At that time, the SMCCCD hopes to not only renew the bill, but influence other colleges, districts, and even states to follow in their footsteps to make education more affordable and widely accessible.

“When you go to public schools, you see the difference between a student who comes from a financially stable family and an undocumented or low-income student who, after high school, just doesn’t go to college because ‘He’s afraid they might not make it,” said Morales, who is a first-generation student herself. “It will encourage students to have that hope.”

Norman D. Briggs