Community colleges offer free tuition for fall 2022

Californians don’t need to pay for this upcoming semester

Maryam Nadi, an SJCC computer science major, registers for classes in the Chavez Library on May 20.

California residents will not have to pay for this semester

San Jose City College is providing free tuition for all qualified students for fall 2022.

The deadline to apply is Sept. 11. 

Vice president of Academic Affairs Elizabeth Pratt said that the free tuition plan took funds from the HERF, the higher education relief funding.

“We started receiving it (HERF) last year to help support not only students but also faculty and everyone during the pandemic,” Pratt said. “I can’t recall how much we were able to, but it was around $200,000 plus in free tuition that we were able to allow students to take.”

To qualify, SJCC students must complete the Financial Aid Free Application, including Federal Student Aid, California Dream Act Application or California College Promise Grant for the 2022-2023 award year, then register for classes (through Myweb).

To enroll for free, students need to be California residents and register in at least six units for fall 2022. High school students or AB 540 students are also qualified.

“I think it’s a very good plan,” said Elizabeth Rushing, 21, health science major, who received the fund last year. “It helped me very much. I don’t know if I would be able to go to college and focus on it as much if I didn’t have free tuition.”

Multiple fees, including tuition, health services fee, parking fee, student activity fee, student representation fee and VTA bus pass will be covered, according to an announcement to students on Canvas.

Sriya Kan,18, a high school student, said this is a great opportunity.

“By making tuition free, there will be large opportunities for more people, like minority people, since free tuition would really help with the cost of getting an education,” Kan said.

Virginia Hernandez Carmona, 19, medical assisting major, said she thought the plan is really good, especially for people with low incomes.

“Some people can’t afford it, especially for classes and books. They are really expensive. It’s been helping me a lot because I can totally feel like two bucks is almost $200 or $300,” Carmona said. “Not paying for tuition has been super helpful because there are a lot of people who pay rent and then they have other things to pay. Gas is really expensive nowadays to come to school.”

Mohammad Shoaib, 42, computer science major, said that it would be a good plan for the students who can’t afford tuition. 

“This is fantastic for students, especially for me. I can’t afford the fall semester. I don’t want to pay and study so that would be great,” Shoaib said.

Pratt said that the school wants to make sure that students can take advantage of the fund.

“We were using our HERF funding dollars not only to do the free tuition but also to provide grants to students, if they are economically distressed and need help,” Pratt said. 

Pratt said the funding was not called HERF in the past. It was called the CARES Act.

“Enrollment had dropped a little bit even before the pandemic. We want to make sure that students have fewer obstacles to come to school, and there’s no better way to do that than to provide free tuition,” Pratt said.

Pratt said she hopes the free tuition offer helps students take more courses and get their certificates or their associates degree for transfer and move forward.

“Our mission is to help the students to get what they need when they come to college … so that they can succeed, and that’s how it’s helping the college,” Pratt said. 

Pratt said the fund cannot be used for international students because HERF is federal funding. The fund should be used only for U.S. or California state students.

“We are fulfilling our mission to support the students. I think overall if we can increase enrollment by offering free tuition this semester, then we will be able to offer more courses at different times to all of our students,” Pratt said. “When our students benefit, then we benefit.”

Takeo Kubo, director of the Financial Aid Department, confirmed that international students as well as out-of-state students do not qualify for the free tuition, but they should work with the International Student Program to receive emergency grants.

“All those students do qualify for the emergency grants. We don’t put it directly toward tuition so that we can give emergency grants to international students among the other students,” Kubo said. “That can help them with any of the costs that are associated with going to college, whether it’s their tuition or living expenses or whatever it is. I have a close contact list with the staff there to figure out which international students are in need of these emergency grants, and we help them with funding that way.”