Peralta Community Colleges offer students free enrollment

The Peralta Colleges provide education to 21,875 students — as of Fall 2023 — within their four community colleges: Berkeley City College, College of Alameda, Laney College, and Merritt College.


The Peralta Colleges provide education to 21,875 students — as of Fall 2023 — within their four community colleges: Berkeley City College (BCC), College of Alameda, Laney College, and Merritt College. In 2022, BCC and Laney College waived tuition fees for all students attending, aiming to bring students to their colleges and also give them a more affordable education. Following those two colleges, in the spring of 2023, all four Peralta Colleges offered free course registration. 

This is a program that the Peralta Community College District (PCCD) has titled “Fall is Free.” It follows the free course registration started in the Fall of 2022 by BCC and Laney and continued into the spring of 2023, titled “Spring is Free.” According to the Peralta Community College District, this new policy has resulted in an increase in students across all four campuses. Additionally, a 20 percent increase in African American students, an 11 percent increase in Latinx students, and a nine percent increase in Asian American and Pacific Islander students has occurred.

According to Maisy Matthews, her mom chose to enter the Junior College system after not being accepted into UC Berkeley straight out of high school. It provided a cheaper option for her family and gave her an easy pathway into UC Berkeley after two years. Now, according to Matthews, her mom works in psychedelic studies for public benefit. 

Through hearing her mom’s story and first-hand experience, Matthews, a Berkeley High School sophomore, was able to see the many benefits of community college and, in her case, BCC Matthews plans on enrolling in dual enrollment during her junior year. 

“From what I know, dual enrollment is free. I haven’t done it myself yet but want to,” said Matthews.

CSUs, on the other hand, will cost $6,084 for full academic enrollment during the 2024-25 school year.  UCs are estimated to have a tuition of $14,436 for the 2024-25 school year, not including housing or meal plans. The average tuition of a private college in the academic 2023-24 year is $42,162. The Peralta Colleges new program, can save money for families who may not have enough to send their children to schools with high tuitions.

“The students I’ve been helping in the past, I’ve always tried to push them to go to community college first, especially with our families who were at least struggling with finances and having to think about sending their child to a post-high school institution,” said Joanne Dumbrigue, a BHS college counselor in the College and Career Center (CCC).

BCC and the UC/CSU systems have transfer agreements with each other through classes and college credits. This can make the option of going to community college and then transferring that much more appealing. 

“The counselors at Berkeley City College are amazing. The transfer rate for students who are interested in transferring to another school from BCC is amazing. We send tons of students (to UCs),” Yasmin Navarro, one of the college counselors at the CCC, said. 

However, students aren’t sure how long the free tuition will last. PCCD initially received federal aid to provide free education, but recently it has run out. PCCD received a state grant that made it possible for them to continue for another year, but it may not last past then. 

State and federal grants are making an effort to provide more grants and money to institutions of higher education that serve students and provide better education, but the program requires more federal and state action to continue.