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Democrats poised to offer two years of free community college

By Melody Gutierrez - San Francisco Chronicle

California community college students could reap the benefits of Democratic dominance in the state Legislature, with lawmakers pushing for the state to cover the cost of two years of tuition for students who commit to enrolling full time right out of high school.

Democratic lawmakers across the country have made affordability at public colleges and universities a rallying cry, with free tuition programs popping up at the state and local levels. During the 2018 midterms, the free-college mantra of Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders became a key campaign promise for liberal candidates in congressional and state races. Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom pledged during his own campaign to make the first two years of community college free in California, as did some of his Democratic challengers.

“This is about strengthening the middle class,” said Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, who partnered with Assemblymen David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, to pass a bill last year making the first year of community college free for full-time freshmen. Democrats were solidly behind AB19 — all the “no” votes came from Republicans, who will be even more badly outnumbered next year and unable to block anything, including the Democratic legislators’ new measure.