OAKLAND, Calif. - Consider it a freebie of sorts but one of monumental proportions. For thousands of Laney College students trying to get ahead, despite personal financial circumstances and debt needed to get an education, these Laney Eagles now have the tools to soar come Monday.
Early arriving athletes are happy they chose Laney College for the fall term. "I honestly didn't know if it's true," said Demontre Thomas.
FILE ART - Peralta Community College District
When classes start Monday at Laney College, fall is free. Registered students will be charged nada, zip, zero for fees and tuition.
"My dad is real happy. He doesn't have to stress about the financial part of school right now, So, I mean, it's just a blessing," said Thomas. Coach John Beam agrees. "We should want people to be educated because it makes society a better place," said Coach Beam.
But it gets much better. Using a federal grant, students will also get free textbooks, lunch, weekly produce boxes, bus and passes.
"A lot of us commute, so it's just easier for us to make it to school," said sophomore Gianni Galaviz. And get this: they get free WiFi and Chromebooks. "Guys are sitting on their phones trying to do a class, and English paper on their phone. Now they have a Chromebook," said the coach.
It's all a gift to students, many who suffered financial and academic losses during the depths of the pandemic.
Students can earn certificates or associate degrees; some of which guarantee admission into a California State University.
"It just takes a lot of stress off my shoulders, you know? Being able to come to a place that wants to support you, give you the things you need in order to come and show up and focus on getting an education," said sophomore Noah Iosefa.
"Junior Colleges can really help you figure out what you want to do later on in life and help you get to that next level in college," said classmate Chris Smith.
This is for everybody – no matter their motivation, no matter their goals. Barriers have been removed and they intend to succeed. "Travel, food and education; there should be no barriers for us and that's awesome," said Coach Beam.
"At Laney College, we believe in social justice. Unfortunately free college, all the time isn't realistic, but we're really gonna do our best to make it work for as long as we can," said Public information Officer Larena Baldazo. "So it's fair for everybody," said another student.
In fact, facing declining enrollments, Berkeley City College, the College of Alameda and Merritt College all are offering free tuition and other incentive programs for students.