California Lawmakers Propose Debt-Free College

Students walk through Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Debt-free college may be a possibility for California's low- and middle-income students, according to a plan announced Monday in Sacramento.

State Assembly Democrats announced the plan to help nearly 400,000 full-time UC and CSU students pay for non-tuition-related expenses, such as books and housing. Sacramento Assemblyman Kevin McCarty says the plan will make higher education more accessible.

"Too often college is out of reach and unattainable for middle-class and lower-income families," he said. "And those that do get there, they graduate with mountains of debt.”

So far the plan is short on details, but sponsors say the program would cost more than $1 billion a year when fully implemented.

It will likely face resistance from Gov. Jerry Brown, who proposed phasing out the state’s Middle Class Scholarship in this year’s budget proposal.


Brown's proposal has drawn criticism from Assembly Democrats, who have made maintaining the Middle Class Scholarship a pillar of their higher education budget package.

As part of that package, lawmakers are also proposing help for community college students. Full-time students would receive their first year of tuition for free. A scholarship program would also be expanded to help lower-income students with living expenses.

The items will be acted on in an Assembly committee on Tuesday.