Fall semester is free at Laney College in Oakland

The fall semester is free at Laney Community College in Oakland – a gift to students who might have suffered financially and academically throughout the pandemic. 

When classes start on Aug. 22, community college students who complete the FAFSA or the California Dream Act applications, will receive free tuition, textbooks, lunch, bus passes, Chromebooks, WiFi and weekly produce boxes, according to a new "Fall is Free" program announced this week, said spokeswoman Larena Baldazo.  

"The college understands that our students have been experiencing many challenges, especially because of COVID, so we hope this promotion serves as one less barrier when it comes to college," Baldazo said.

Laney is the first community college in the Bay Area to launch such a program, following a similar effort in Modesto, officials said. 

To offset the free offer, Laney is using grant money from the U.S. Department of Education Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund to pay for the program. 

Students can take any of the college’s in-person, hybrid or online classes. And students who have already paid will be reimbursed.

"Laney College is thrilled to offer a free fall to most of our students," Laney College President Rudy Besikof said in a statement. "Now more than ever, we must recognize that college costs that go beyond tuition represent barriers to success for so many students, whether they are working adults attending part-time or high school graduates."

Lane College offers 130 programs along with associate degrees, certificates and associate degrees for transfer, which guarantee admission into a California State University.

This fall, there are over 600 classes to choose from, including short-term, late-start and weekend courses. 

There are no minimum or maximum units required. 

A typical unit at a community college costs about $50. 

International students are not eligible for the program. 

For more information, students can visit the college’s Welcome Center, visit the Fall is Free website or call the Fall is Free Helpdesk at (510) 255-3507, open from 9-11 a.m. and 1-5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 3-6 p.m. on Tuesday. Laney will be hosting information sessions for students Aug. 10, 11, 12, 15 and 16 at 12 p.m. with additional evening sessions at 6 p.m. on Aug. 10 and 11.