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Becker bill calling for reduced, free tuition at SMCCCD passes state Senate vote

Bill OK’ing pilot program to defray the total cost of attending SMC colleges now moves to Assembly for review
The Senate passed Senate Bill 893, in a bipartisan 33-0 vote. The bill will now head to the Assembly for review.

A bill that will grant the San Mateo County Community College District the authority to make tuition low-cost, or free, for eligible local students passed a major hurdle this week.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 893, in a bipartisan 33-0 vote. The bill will now head to the Assembly for review.

Currently, the state's required tuition rate is $46 per unit. In addition to tuition, costs for rent, food, books, technology and other living expenses can come up to more than $15,000 for community college students, according to a staff report.

“The total cost for attending community college can amount to over $15,000, when you consider enrollment fees, books, school supplies, transportation, housing, food and other expenses that can seem insurmountable to students in need,” said State Sen. Becker, D-Menlo Park.

In April, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors–with encouragement from the North Fair Oaks Community Council–passed a resolution supporting SB 893, co-authored by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, D-San Mateo and Assemblymember Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto. If passed in the assembly, the bill would allow the SMCCCD to reduce tuition costs for students in need.

San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa said that the bill could allow the district to bridge inequities in the county by making college more accessible.

"San Mateo County as a whole is economically prosperous in comparison to other areas in the state. However, there are still significant socioeconomic and educational gaps within the county," Canepa said in April.

If SB 893 is passed by the Assembly and signed into law by the Governor, the legislation will take effect in 2023 and be in place until July 1, 2028. A report will be required from the district by March 2026 on the implementation of SB 893, its fiscal impacts, demographic data about the students helped, and the aid received.

“SMCCCD would like to thank Senator Becker for his leadership to allow for tuition-free community college in San Mateo County,” said ohn Pimentel, college district trustee. “Cañada College, Skyline, and College of San Mateo provide a proven path of upward economic mobility for those in under-resourced communities. We’re now one step closer to removing financial barriers so county residents can have access to an exceptional and more affordable community college experience.”