Gov. Newsom Signs Bill to Eliminate Tuition at San Mateo Community Colleges

SB 893 will cover cost of attending as well as tuition


Joshua D Picazo

Previous law required San Mateo Community colleges to charge $46 per unit

Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 893 into law on Sept. 30, allowing the San Mateo County Community College District to lower or eliminate student enrollment fees.

SB 893 was introduced by State Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, in January. It was a bill that tuition-free community college advocates had championed all year. The bill offers fee waivers and amended a previous law that had required community college students to pay $46 per unit per semester.

California already had the lowest tuition rates for community colleges in the country, according to Education Data., and this bill will make access to higher education even more affordable.

The bill passed the state senate by a unanimous vote of 40-0 on Aug. 24 in the final hurdle before reaching Gov. Newsom’s desk. It passed each previous vote unanimously.

Gov. Newsom’s Office’s official Press release stated, “California continues to make historic investments to transform our education systems! With new bills signed into law last week, more students will graduate from college faster – increasing student success and saving students money.”

According to the bill, the funding for this will come from “local unrestricted general funds.”
Students across college campuses, including at Canada College, had been rallying to get support for this bill’s passage.

SMCCCD Student Trustee Lesly Ta said this bill signifies a huge step forward for higher education accessibility.

“Free community college is an effective step to help close equity gaps and bring families out of poverty,” Ta said. “I can’t see a better use of SMCCCD’s funds than to support San Mateo County residents by providing access to higher education.”

Attendance rates have steadily fallen since the 2010-11 school year, and lawmakers, as well as educators, hope this bill will entice students to return. In that time, there has been a 31% decrease in enrollment. Even more shocking is that low-income student enrollment declined by 57%  between Fall 2016 and Fall 2021.

Some students at Skyline College welcomed the bill’s signage.

“… I have a scholarship, but I do know it is expensive. Funding for transportation [is needed] with gas prices being expensive,” sophomore Skyline College student Mario Hernandez said.

The California College Promise part of the bill is expected to cover expenses such as transportation.

It is unclear if a future bill will expand the program to other districts in the state.