‘Degrees Not Debt’ Could Make College Tuition Free for California Students

free college tuition

California students: you may soon be off the hook for school thanks to a proposed law that offers free college tuition.

On Monday, state legislators in California proposed a new bill called the H.R.5756 – Degrees Not Debt Act. This bill aims to give college students a more affordable education that doesn’t include student loan debt.

“As the sixth largest economy in the world, California needs graduates ready to innovate in business, technology, agriculture and other sectors,” reads a statement from the California State Assembly Democratic Caucus. “Debt stifles innovation, and today’s students are graduating with more debt in real world dollars than their forebears.”

The proposal aims to eliminate the need for California students to take out student loans and make the first year of community college free to all full-time students.

Free college tuition and scholarships prevent student loan debt

At the center of the proposal is the Degrees Not Debt scholarship program. The scholarship program would provide aid to 390,000 students at California’s public colleges and universities. The scholarships cover the gap between college costs and the student’s ability to pay through combined aid, part-time job wages, and family contributions.

Students with a family income of $150,000 or less would qualify for the Degrees Not Debt scholarship. Awards would be needs-based. To receive the scholarship, students would need to attend class and work at least 15 hours a week.

Degrees Not Debt would also protect and expand existing student aid programs:

  • The Success Grants program: Gives low-income students aid to cover living expenses, would receive further funding.
  • The Middle Class Scholarship: Shields 55,000 California college students from paying more if tuition increases.

Proposal eliminates need for student debt

The proposal, if passed, would cost California about $1.6 billion in its first year. After that, a minimum wage increase would boost students’ earnings. The idea is for students to cover more of their own costs and avoid taking out loans. The program would then pay out $1.2 billion for each year after the first.

It would take five years to phase in the Degrees Not Debt scholarships, at 20 percent each year. This gives lawmakers time to free up funds in the California budget to allocate to the plan.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Calif.) says tax raises are not needed to fund the bill. “It sounds kind of too good to be true, but we think there’s a realistic path in California,” McCarty told Sacramento TV station Fox 40.

Support the Degrees Not Debt plan if you want free college tuition

As a cost-neutral proposal that would help California students avoid debt, this proposal is promising. California lawmakers will present the proposal to the local legislature Tuesday during a budget subcommittee.

If you’re a California resident, contacting your representative in favor of the bill will increase its chances of becoming a law. You can find your California representative with this tool. Call and let them know you are in favor of the proposal.

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