EAGLE ROCK, LOS ANGELES - Community colleges offer a bridge, helping many students eventually move on to a four-year university.
But for students from low-income families, community college can pose an overwhelming financial burden.
"I could have gone to Oregon U, but financially I couldn't afford it. I decided to go to community college instead. Now financially I'm still unstable," said community college student Regina Vasquez.
Oscar Cruz briefly quit school to help support his family. "It was pretty difficult," said Cruz.
Students, educators and political leaders gathered at Eagle Rock High School Thursday, urging support for a bill authored by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago.
AB 19 would grant first-time, full-time community college students in California a year of free tuition.
"Education should not be a privilege for the few who can afford it. Education is a right and education should be free," said Santiago.
Supporters said the bill would boost enrollment and graduation rates, but concerns have been raised that AB 19 might give waivers to students who don't need financial support.
"The myth about students that don't need it just doesn't exist. Rich kids are not going to community colleges and that's the bottom line," said Santiago.
The measure passed both houses of the legislature with bipartisan support and has been sent to Gov. Brown.