The Peralta Community College District has targeted more than $12 million in federal relief funds to wipe out student debt and provide enhanced financial aid resources for the 30,000 students enrolled across its four East Bay campuses. Some $2.77 million will be allocated for the relief of student debt from the most recent three semesters, going back to Summer 2020 impacted by the global pandemic. An additional $9.5 million is earmarked for financial aid for future semesters.
The four colleges in the Peralta system - Berkeley City College, College of Alameda, Laney College, and Merritt College - serve one of the most diverse student bodies in the Bay Area, with students coming predominantly from communities of color and lower-income areas of Alameda County. Despite the lower cost of community college compared to four-year institutions, affording college is challenging for many of these students. Across the district, 60% of our students qualify as low-income, while 49% are first-generation.
When the district received Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grants from the U.S. Department of Education, it chose to direct a substantial portion of these funds to address this crucial financial issue.
“With these funds, Peralta is demolishing the biggest roadblock between our students and their ability to continue their educational journey,” said Dr. Jannett N. Jackson, Chancellor of the Peralta Community College District. “By clearing the path for them, we are realizing our mission to provide equitable access to education in our communities and empower our students to achieve their highest aspirations.”
At Merritt College, the grants will provide nearly $940,000 in debt relief and $1.5 million in financial aid for its 6,000 students.
“I’m thrilled that we are able to reward the hard work and dedication of our students by taking away the burden that is student debt,” said Dr. David M. Johnson, president of Merritt College. “Along with the additional financial aid funds, we can ensure that more students will achieve their educational goals.”
For the 6,500 students at Berkeley City College, the District has allocated $732,000 of debt “wipe-out” and $1.9 million in future financial aid.
“This could not have come at a more opportune time, as the pandemic has exacerbated the fiscal realities of students living in the Bay Area,” said Dr. Angélica Garcia, President of Berkeley City College. “Relieving BCC students of debt accrued during the pandemic will enable many students to finish their term here, leading to employment or their transfer to a four-year institution and earn their degrees.”
At Laney College, the funds will provide $739,056 in debt relief, and $4.84 million in financial aid to the student body of some 16,000.
“One of the main goals of the federal government’s HEERF grants is to make college more affordable to students, especially those with greater needs,” said Dr. Rudy Besikof, President of Laney College. “For the 2,690 Laney students receiving $739,056 in debt relief, this truly represents a fresh start, and these are students we will absolutely be inviting back to our College.”
Students at the College of Alameda will benefit from $364,000 in debt relief funds, as well as $1.25 million in financial aid.
“At College of Alameda, one of the things we promise students is the chance to open a new chapter on their future,” said Dr. Nathaniel Jones III, President of the College of Alameda. “Thanks to this infusion of federal aid, we are now better equipped to ensure that more students can turn those pages and realize their dreams.”