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See where college is free for almost anyone this fall

Usually, back to school isn’t for everyone. But this year, it basically is. 

Some California colleges have an irresistible offer for almost everyone: free tuition.

That means free classes for high schoolers who want to do dual enrollment, young adults who want to start college (full time or part time), and even folks of any age who just want to go back to school.

Some California colleges offering free classes this fall:

The NBC Bay Responds team recently met with two Oakland students: Gaijin Holquin and Angle Sunlight.  

“I want to be a business owner,” Holquin said.

Sunlight said, “I want to be a librarian.”  

Their careers will go different directions. But they’ve both started in the same place: Berkeley City College. And they’re both taking advantage of an A-plus deal: 

“I’m getting free tuition,” Holquin said. 

“My tuition was free. and it’s free to everybody,” Sunlight said. 

Real, rigorous, degree track college courses are free. 

“The classes I’ve been taking are accounting, managerial business, and economics,” Holquin said.  

Also, continuing education and trade classes are free. 

“Back to school is for everyone at Berkeley City College,” said Interim President Denise Richardson. Richardson explained that federal funding is paying the tuition and fees this fall. If you want to take advantage of the offer, you have three basic steps. 

Step one: apply for admission. “We’re open access… everyone will get in,” Richardson said.  

Step two: fill out the FAFSA, the free application for student aid — even if you know you won’t qualify. “It doesn’t matter,” Richardson said. She said you just have to fill out the federal form because Uncle Sam’s paying.

And step three: register for your classes, which you can do yourself, online. “In addition to that, we have counselors on site and online to help walk you through the entire process,” Richardson said. “So, no excuses!”  

Berkeley City College is not alone. Some other local, California community colleges are offering free in-state tuition right now. Details vary by location. See the links at the top of the page.

“Don’t say no to yourself. It’s free,” said William Garcia, Vice President for Student Affairs at San Jose City College — where the fall semester is also free. Garcia told NBC Bay Area Responds that some SJCC students dropped out during the pandemic. He’s eager to bring them back to the classroom – along with new students of any age. 

“That’s why we’re offering the free tuition program and zero student fee campaign,” he said. “We want to help all students who want to join us.” 

You’ll still have to buy or rent your textbooks. and they can be expensive. However, some local colleges told us they have programs to help reduce or cover that cost, too.

If transportation to class on campus is an issue, here’s a possible solution: students can ride some transit lines free or at a discount. Some schools even give students a transit card

Sunlight said BCC gave her transit money. “A $150 BART ticket,” she said. “So, that covered my commute for a couple months.” 

This free ride — literally and figuratively — is a life changer for many students. “Truthfully, without free tuition, I doubt I’d even be going,” Holquin said. Same for Sunlight. “I probably wouldn’t be able to go to school if it weren’t for that [free tuition]  program,” he said.  

If you’re interested, Holquin and Sunlight agree: they say just enroll. 

“Just do it. Just go for it,” Sunlight said. Holquin said, “There’s a future you can build for yourself, starting here.” 

Source: NBC Bay Area

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