Help Center

First Year Free FAQs

General Information

What is First Year Free?
First Year Free is Sierra College’s nickname for the AB19 State Promise Grant which can cover the cost of tuition for eligible students. You may also hear it referred to as California Promise, California College Promise or AB-19 (Assembly Bill No.19).

What does First Year Free cover? 
Your tuition fees (the cost of your class units). $46 per unit. 
What does First Year Free NOT cover? 

  • Health Center fee
  • Student Center fee
  • Books
  • Transportation
  • Living expenses


Who is eligible for First Year Free?
Students who are California residents and first-time students.

What does it mean to be a California resident?
Please check out our Residency Requirements to see if you would be considered a California resident.

Who is considered a "first-time” student?

  1. Students coming directly from high school, or
  2. Students who have never attempted college units, or
  3. Students who have earned 12 or fewer units of college credit (with letter grades of A, B, C, D, F)

Am I still a first-time student if I earned college credit while in high school?
Yes! College credit earned while in high school does not affect your eligibility for First Year Free.

What steps do I need to complete to get First Year Free:

  • Opt-in to First Year Free in your mySierra portal
  • Complete the FAFSA or CA Dream Act application for all required years
  • Enroll full-time in fall and spring (12 units required, 15 recommended.  Summer units are optional)

* If you are a transfer student we need official transcripts from all previous colleges attended. Those can be sent two ways:

Clarifying Common Eligibility Questions

Why are 15 units recommended if the full-time requirement is 12 units?
Lots of reasons!

  • Proven greater success rate
  • Faster time to your end goal
  • Hit the job market sooner
  • More opportunities for financial support (specific programs and scholarships)
  • Fewer student loans
  • Best of all, you’re maximizing the number of units you get free!

Why would I need to complete the FAFSA or CA Dream Act application for two academic years?
The time frame for First Year Free is Summer, Fall, Spring. Oddly enough, that Summer term is part of one FAFSA/Dream application year and the Fall and Spring are part of a different application year.

Example: If you graduate high school in June 2019, your First Year Free semesters are Summer 2019, Fall 2019 and Spring 2020. Summer 2019 is part of the 2018/19 FAFSA and Dream Act application year while Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 are part of the 2019/20 application year. So if you take classes in Summer 2019 we need both financial aid application years on file.

What if I don’t qualify for FAFSA or the CA Dream Act?
That’s ok! There is no income requirement or restrictions for First Year Free. We simply need you to complete these applications so we can verify eligibility for any other financial aid first.

What if I don't want to do the FAFSA or Dream Act application?
You would not qualify to get your first year free.

How long can I receive First Year Free?
Once you meet the eligibility requirements, First Year Free is specific to Summer > Fall > Spring for one year.

What if I don't want to take summer classes?
Summer courses are not required.  We would review your eligibility for Fall and Spring. If you change your mind, be sure to do the FAFSA or CA Dream Act application for both academic years.

Is there a unit requirement for summer? 
No. If you meet all the eligibility requirements, we will pay for any amount of Summer units.

What if I don’t start classes until the Spring?
Good question! You have a choice:

Option A: You can take 12 or more units in Spring and opt in to First Year Free and get those units for free. You will not be eligible for any future semesters.

Option B: You can take 12 or fewer units in Spring, opt out of First Year Free and pay for those units yourself. This would leave you potentially eligible for the next full year of Summer > Fall > Spring.

If I go to a Sierra Promise partner high school, do I have to sign up as a Sierra Promise Scholar to get my first year free?
No, but we recommend it. Being a Sierra Promise Scholar gives you priority registration for your first semester and gives you access to additional support and resources.  Learn more about Sierra Promise.

Will First Year Free pay for Credit by Exam units if I challenge a course?
Unfortunately, no. First Year Free is only applicable to enrolled units. 

Processes and Timelines

Where can I see if I have completed all the steps to get First Year Free?
Log in to mySierra. Your status is displayed under “Steps to Getting My Tuition Paid For”.

I have completed all of the required steps. Why do I still see fees in my mySierra account?
You will continue to see a balance in your mySierra account until the third week of school (after census). If you are still eligible at census, your tuition fees will be waived. A remaining balance may represent the Student Center and Health Center fees.

If I already paid, and I have completed all of the required steps, when will I get a refund?
As long as you remain eligible, refunds will begin two weeks after the add/drop deadline. See the academic calendar for specific date.

Is there a final deadline to become eligible?

  • Units have to be finalized within each semester
  • The FAFSA or CA Dream Act application has to be complete by June 30 (end of your First Year Free year)

We will continue to monitor your eligibility weekly throughout your first year to see if you become eligible, which could result in a refund of tuition for qualifying semesters.

Unit Completion, Withdraws and Repayments

Do I have to complete 30 units in my first year?
No.  But we do recommend taking as many units as you can complete successfully to maximize your free tuition opportunity. 

If I withdraw from units, do I have to make up those units within my First Year Free timeframe?

If my Fall tuition has already been paid by First Year Free (AB19 State Promise Grant) and I now need to withdraw from a class, will I owe anything back? Will it affect my eligibility for Spring?
No, you will not owe anything back. 

If you fail or withdraw from ALL Fall classes, you might not be eligible for Spring (SAP issue). Otherwise, it will not affect your eligibility. You still need to be in 12+ units for Spring (at census).

Also, we recommend speaking to a counselor before withdrawing from any classes.

If my financial aid Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is in Warning Status after Fall grades post, am I still eligible for First Year Free in Spring?
Yes, as long as you are in 12+ units for Spring (at census).

If my financial aid Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is in Termination Status after Fall grades post, am I still eligible for First Year Free in Spring?

How do I pay for my second year?
You may qualify to get financial support for your tuition and other expenses through resources offered through our Financial Aid Office, such as tuition waivers, scholarships, and loans. To find out what you qualify for, fill out the FAFSA every year, starting on October 1.
Learn more about Financial Aid

Was this article helpful?

Contact Us
seconds ago
a minute ago
minutes ago
an hour ago
hours ago
a day ago
days ago
Invalid characters found