Brooklyn Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte has introduced Assembly Bill A9254, originally sponsored by Senator James Sanders (S6597), which provided a waiver of tuition for community college for two years or up to two years of career and technical education.
Bichotte, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, said this makes New York State one of at least 11 other states that have proposed similar legislation.
A national version of the legislation was introduced by members of Congress, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) entitled America’s Promise College Act of 2015 soon after President Obama’s announcement and includes Historically Black Colleges (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).
President Obama and the White House made policy indicating that all 50 states should implement free community college tuition.
“I answered the president’s call,” Bichotte said. “President Obama understands how education can be a pathway to opportunity. Economic standing should not be a litmus test as to whether one can get an education.”
Bichotte noted that, in 2015, the Executive Office of the President released the America’s College Promise: A Progress Report on Free Community College report.
The report’s findings indicated the makeup of the America’s community college’s student bodies.
In regards to the racial makeup of community college students, roughly 50 percent identified as minority and 57 percent as women.
As far as age, 47 percent of students were 21 and younger, while 41 percent were 22-39.
The Executive Office also stated that “[t]he country’s more than 1,000 community colleges are places that welcome everyone through their doors – 40 percent are first-generation college goers; 30 percent have dependents, and 38 percent receive Pell grants.”
“These facts are real and the need for free community college tuition is real,” Bichotte said. “The Bill strengthens an obvious fact, which is that New York will be built to lead when everyone has the opportunity to access a community college education.
“Free community college tuition is a promise we must make to our young adults who are eager to learn and to contribute to our work force,” she added. “With this legislation, many college-bound high school students and adult learners will have access to be eligible for free tuition.”
Bichotte said the word “free” entails a certain level of encouragement; it assists those who dearly want to go to college, but simply cannot afford it.
“This Bill restores hope and aspiration for all New Yorkers, that education should not be limited to the few, but accessible to the many,” Bichotte said. “Most importantly, this legislation means community college education should not be for sale.
“New York must deliver on a promise, that if one works hard, plays by the rules, and receives a college degree, the American Dream is theirs for the taking,” she added.
To qualify for the tuition waiver, Bichotte said students would have a cumulative total of 12 months of residence in the state, possess a high school diploma or GED, and a grade point average of 2.5.