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First Year Free FAQs

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).

Who is eligible for First Year Free?
Students who are California residents and first-time students (have completed 12 or fewer units of college credit).

What steps do I need to complete to get First Year Free:
  • Complete FAFSA or Dream Act application for all required years
  • Enroll full-time each semester (12 units required, 15 units recommended)
* If you are a transfer student we need official transcripts from all previous colleges attended. Those can be sent two ways:
  1.  Emailed directly from a College Administrator’s school email account to
  2. Sealed, physical copies can be mailed or delivered in person to a Sierra College Admissions Office
What does First Year Free cover?
Your tuition fees (the cost of your class units).
What does First Year Free not cover?
The Health Center Fee and Student Center Fee. These will still show as a balance in your student account that you will need to pay to avoid any holds on your record. First Year Free also does not pay for books, transportation or living expenses.
What if I don’t qualify for FAFSA or the 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.

Why would I need to complete the FAFSA or Dream 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.

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!
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 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.   
What if I don't want to take summer classes? 
Summer courses are not required. We would review your eligibility for Fall and Spring. 
What if I don’t start classes until the Spring? 
Good question!  You have a choice:
Option A: 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 eligible for the next full year of Summer > Fall > Spring.
Option B: 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.     
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 second week of school (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.
What if I don't want to do the FAFSA or Dream Act application?
You would not qualify to get your first year free.
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.

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 academic calendar for specific date.

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, you do not have to be a Sierra Promise Scholar to get First Year Free. However, we recommend it because if you complete all the steps for First Year Free, the only extra step is to click the “Yes I want to be a Promise Scholar” button in mySierra. Being a Sierra Promise Scholar gives you access to additional support and resources and makes you eligible for a book voucher and priority enrollment. Learn more about Sierra Promise.

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 
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