San Francisco’s City College is a two-year school, serving something more than 30,000 students a year. Recently restructured to address accreditation concerns, the college offers courses in over 150 disciplines, both academic and occupational. It’s a valuable part of the city and has been for over 80 years.
Starting this fall, it will be free to all San Francisco residents.
The announcement made on Tuesday, February 7, by Mayor Ed Lee makes San Francisco the first city in the United States to make community college free for all students, regardless of income.
“This commitment will provide our residents the opportunity to attend college, continue to learn, and create better lives for themselves,” Lee said. “This is an investment in our youth, in our city, and in our future.”
The city will pay City College $5.4 million a year to offset the loss of tuition, and a jump in enrollment will make the public college eligible for more state funding.
The money will be coming from Proposition W, a measure approved in November 2016, applying a new transfer tax to homes being sold for at least $5 million. Prop W is expected to raise approximately $44 million a year, which isn’t a surprise in property-poor San Francisco. The median price of a single-family home in the city reached $1.4 million this year, just about the highest in the country.
During the campaign for Prop W, there was a nonbinding resolution to use $13 million of the revenue for the City College project, but that was dumped after the failure of another proposed tax increase on the same ballot. Any money that does not go to college tuition will go into the city’s general fund.
For the students, the new funding will provide 45,000 credits a year, as well as vouchers to defray the costs of books and supplies.
The motto of City College, displayed all over their campus is “The truth shall set you free.” Now, more San Francisco residents will have access to the education they need to set themselves free.
Other states are also helping their students pay for college costs. Kentucky, Oregon, Tennessee, and Minnesota, for example, have scholarship programs that cover any remaining tuition fees after state and federal grant aid.
In January of 2017, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed making all New York state, city, and community colleges tuition-free for New York residents of households that earn less than $125,000 a year. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has put forth a similar proposal, but for two years of free tuition at state colleges. Both governors’ plans need legislative approval before they can be put in place.