When first-year college students head to class next fall, it’s possible they’ll be required to take no remedial courses and pay no tuition their first year, the result of two pieces of legislation signed last week by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The legislative bills, AB 19 and AB 705, are part of an effort to entice more Californians to enroll in community college and transfer quickly, speeding the pace of graduation to meet workforce demands.

California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said the legislation, known as the California College Promise, took “an enormous step forward” in making college more accessible to first-time students.

“The California College Promise will help foster a stronger culture of college participation that will enhance upward social mobility in California,” Oakley said. “We look forward to working with the governor and legislature on providing funding to support the California College Promise and additional financial aid to offset the non-tuition costs that create barriers to college attendance for students with financial need.”

But AB 19, which promises free tuition for first-year students enrolling in more than 12 units of classes – roughly $1,100 for two semesters – has some hurdles. The bill depends upon the governor finding money in the state budget.

State Department of Finance officials have not pinpointed an exact amount, but estimate it would need between $30 million and $50 million to carry out the legislation, said H.D. Palmer, deputy director of external affairs for the department.

The department opposed the legislation this year, saying that because it awards dollars to students without requiring them to demonstrate need, it was inconsistent with the administration’s goals to provide aid to the neediest students.

Palmer wouldn’t say with certainty whether that money would be allocated.

“It’s simply premature,” Palmer said. “I’m not going to make a definitive commitment at this point other than saying the bill has been signed and we’ve got to continue to finish up our work developing next year’s budget.”

But college officials say the need is great.

Roughly 56 percent of Bakersfield College’s 34,249 students last year qualified for the Board of Governor’s Fee Waiver, and another 6,549 students qualified at Cerro Coso and Porterville colleges – about 52 percent of total enrollment. That waiver is available to students who have demonstrated financial need.

Meanwhile, AB 705, known as the Seymour-Campbell Student Success Act of 2012, requires community colleges “maximize the probability that the student will enter and complete transfer-level coursework in English and mathematics within a one-year timeframe.”

That legislation also requires that colleges determine placement of students in remedial classes based on high school coursework, grades and grade point average, instead of the old system: standardized placement tests.

Students could only be placed in remedial coursework if they are “highly unlikely to succeed in transfer-level coursework,” the bill states. It’s being praised locally by Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian.

“By honoring the work that our incoming students have already successfully completed in high school, we are saving students time, money, and financial aid eligibility; these students are now able to move forward more quickly and decisively in their programs of study,” Christian said.

She doesn’t think the elimination of remedial courses drops the standards for college students, and said that the new standards allow college officials to evaluate students based on multiple measures that better assess their abilities.

“The testing we used to place students below college level was a very poor measure of their skills,” said Janet Fulks, a BC biology professor who sits on a statewide Multiple Measures workgroup used to help inform the legislation. “Using a single test does not ensure standards or quality, it causes us to place students far below their ability in most cases.”

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

(7) comments

ErikKengaard

For one hundred years [1868- 1967], California taxpayers funded the tuition free, world class University of California, Berkeley, for their children, not just those in families making under $125K a year. How was that possible?

Today, Californians and others can't afford to send their children to University. What happened?
The essential bases for the lack of current funding are: the electorate became fragmented [e pluribus multum and a resultant diminution of "sense of collective responsibility"], California became overpopulated, the additional population did not reflect the economic substance and integrity of the population of the first hundred years, immigration driven excess population placed enormous pressure on resources, and drove up the cost of land and derivative costs way beyond inflation, and because millions of the newcomers were poor, their taxes didn't begin to cover the costs of K12, welfare, etc for their families, and many of their children ended up in prison.
As a consequence [somewhat simplified] State funds previously used to support the University were diverted to increased funding of K12, to prisons, and to welfare.

Given the irreversible nature of much of what has happened, the disinterest of the California elite and the apathy of the general populace in supporting an analysis of what happened, to better enable a solution, the future for California middle class students and their parents will be even more financially challenging than it is now.

An example of apathy is the lack of commentary on this article.
http://www.ocregister.com/2017/04/15/failing-marks-for-college-tuition-tax-2/

Christina Kersey made an attempt to explain in her Master's thesis (look it up).See CPEC and Kersey's thesis for data.
http://www.csus.edu/PPA/thesis-Project/bank/2012/Kersey.pdf

ErikKengaard

http://www.bakersfield.com/news/education/new-perks-for-class-of-free-tuition-first-year-no/article_8279f860-b390-11e7-9219-6fb50d6576a5.html

nickstrobel

Read the article more carefully. Also take a look at the actual laws that were signed (go to https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov). No new taxes are being raised to make the California Promise happen---there will be a shifting of money from one place to another as happens in any government whether Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, etc. Regarding the remedial classes: the headline is misleading. Look in the article and you'll see that it says that students will be placed in remedial classes if the student's high school work indicates they need it instead of using the placement exam. The language of AB 705 also says that. In other words, we're going to use a more accurate way to place students. Plenty of research, including BC's own experiments with the accuracy of the flawed placement exam vs. using high school performance to predict success, show way too many students were being incorrectly placed in remedial classes when the flawed placement exam was used. We have the data to show that using high school performance as a placement tool is better than the single placement exam. BC did not decrease the rigor of its classes. We have the data to show that BC students who transfer to a CSU or UC are doing just as good as or even better than the students who started out at that CSU or UC. BC will keep its rigor college-level, so the high schools will need to make sure their college prep classes are truly college prep.

lowell1

tuition is NOT free. The taxpayer is paying for it. As for the "no remedial classes"? The point of remedial classes was because the Government run public education system was graduating students who failed to have entry level knowledge. Passing a law doesn't give them those skills or that knowledge. California used to be the envy of other states regarding the quality of it's education system. Now it's a pathetic joke that costs the taxpayer ever spiraling amounts. I'm waiting for the day when Brown or his crony followers pass a law stating one needn't read or write to get into college and that it's only for illegals.

Inconvenient Truth

Let's just skip to the logical conclusion of these "programs" and simply hand every high school graduate a "free" official "California Baccalaureate Degree."
We would still be graduating unqualified students, but think of all the time and money we could save on education!

CTurk3

What a joke! Welcome to the People's Republic of California. Just another reason my wife and I are taking our "tax money" and moving to another state as soon as possible. Let the "illegal aliens" and welfare recipients pay for the "free education".

CaSooner

Welcome to socialist California. Stiff the middle class tax payers. Heck, let’s raise the gas tax again.

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