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Berman Unveils Legislation for Free Tuition at WVMCCD

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – This past Friday, Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) introduced AB 3158, legislation enabling West Valley-Mission Community College District (WVMCCD) to waive tuition fees for all students living in its service area. This bill builds on the successes of the San Mateo County Community College District’s Free Tuition program, which was supported by Berman.

“I am excited to join forces with West Valley-Mission Community College District to eliminate tuition fees for their students,” said Assemblymember Marc Berman. “Two-thirds of California’s community college students struggle with basic needs insecurities such as food and housing, a reality mirrored in WVMCCD’s student population.”

“AB 3158 gives our local community college district the authority to put significant financial resources back into students’ pockets, ensuring they don’t have to choose between taking the extra class they need or affording groceries or rent. I applaud the leadership at West Valley-Mission Community College District for doing everything they can to support their students to achieve their higher education dreams,” continued Assemblymember Berman.

Addressing the Bay Area's escalating living costs, this legislation aims to alleviate the burden of state-mandated tuition fees. WVMCCD, funded through local property taxes, has successfully balanced its budget in recent years without imposing student fees. This was achieved through the District’s College Promise Scholarship.

Chancellor Bradley Davis shared that while over 5,000 students have enrolled in the program, operationally it has proven challenging for students and staff. This bill will simplify the process and dramatically expand free tuition access.

“While our Promise Program has been a huge step in the right direction, making it operational has been a complex and costly endeavor. This bill will streamline the process, making free education a reality and empowering our staff to focus on what they do best: nurturing the minds and talents of our students,” Chancellor Davis said.

West Valley College Student Trustee Melanie Ho shares, "Because of the soaring costs of living in the Bay Area, many students are trapped in a cycle of living paycheck to paycheck.” By increasing access, Ho notes that this bill will “ease financial strain and foster a more equitable learning environment.”

However, expanding access to free education is not just a boon for students; it's an investment in the community. Studies indicate that higher education correlates with increased economic activity, reduced crime rates, and enhanced civic engagement. By fostering an educated workforce, this bill is poised to yield long-term benefits for the local economy and community well-being.

Board President Anne Kepner adds, “In an effort to eliminate barriers preventing students from achieving their educational goals, the Board recently allocated resources to waive student health and parking fees, provide free childcare for students, and have approved a pilot program to waive tuition for students living in our service area. We are grateful Assemblymember Marc Berman will champion a bill allowing us to expand our free tuition program.”

Following the COVID-19 Pandemic, WVMCCD has seen a resurgence in overall enrollment. With new bachelor’s degrees and workforce development programs on the horizon, the District is set to broaden its impact with more comprehensive educational pathways.

“This bill comes during a renaissance of opportunity for our district, underscoring our commitment to inclusivity and educational enrichment. It is a testament to our belief that unrestricted access to education is a fundamental right, pivotal in unlocking every student's potential,” shared Chancellor Davis.

AB 3158 is sponsored by West Valley-Mission Community College District and has support from local legislators. State Senator Josh Becker is a principal co-author and Assemblymember Evan Low and Gail Pellerin are co-authors.