California Plans to Offer Free Community College for First-Year Students

college students walking in corridor
Clerkenwell/Getty Images

Community colleges in California already offer some of the best deals on tuition and the best pay outcomes.

On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown upped the ante.

Brown signed into law a provision that would make the first year at one of the state’s 114 community schools free, according to a CNN Money report.

That could mean about $1,100 in savings for prospective students, based on the $46 charged per credit and a full 24-credit year of school.

The new law, which expands a similar measure for low-income families, would apply only to first-year students who live in California.

The initiative isn’t a done deal quite yet. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the state will have to find room in its budget for the estimated $31.1 million proposal.

But it does dovetail with burgeoning support for similar policies across the country.

California’s Community Colleges Are Following a National Trend

According to a September poll conducted on behalf of the Campaign for Free College Tuition, 47% of respondents supported state programs providing free tuition. That’s up from December 2016, when a survey that asked the same question found only 35% supported those programs.

And California isn’t the first state to expand free college tuition offerings.

Eleven other states provide statewide scholarship programs similar to the legislation Brown signed Friday. And the CFCT reports legislative activity in five other states.

California’s move to expand access to community college could help combat a nagging problem in the U.S. labor force. More than 6 million jobs openings are going unfilled each month even though more people than that are looking for work.

As we’ve said before, community colleges are a great way to get the skills you need to reenter the workforce and match with a potential employer.

And for California residents, that could soon get cheaper.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.