San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said on Tuesday the city would become the first in the United States to offer tuition-free community college to its residents.
ABC-7 reported nearly 30,000 people should benefit from this, and San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim said she hopes this is an opportunity for residents to improve lives:
“Making City College free is going to provide greater opportunities for more San Franciscans to enter into the middle class and more San Franciscans to stay in the middle class if they currently are.”
— Mayor Ed Lee (@mayoredlee) February 6, 2017
Under the agreement, which is expected to take effect in the fall, the city will pay $5.4 million a year to buy out the $46-a-credit fee usually paid by students.
The city’s contribution will also provide $250 a semester to full-time, low-income students who already receive a state-funded fee waiver. They will be able to use the money to pay for books, transportation, school supplies and health fees. Part-time students with fee waivers will get $100 a semester for the same purpose.
The $5.4 million plan also includes $500 grants to low-income City College of San Francisco students to spend on books, transportation, school supplies and healthcare, Lee said in a posting on Medium.com. He also claimed grants of $200 would be made available to poor part-time students.
Free tuition also only applies to city residents who have lived in California for at least one year.
The community college is one of the largest in the state, but enrollment has plummeted from more than 100,000 students to 64,000 after financial mismanagement threatened its all-important accreditation.
That crisis has passed and free tuition will be an extra enticement to fill its classrooms again. “We have a lot of empty seats,’’ acting Chancellor Susan Lamb noted. Anyone thinking of academics or job training should “come back and give us a try,’’ she said.
The money will come from a measure that San Francisco voters approved in November, Proposition W, enacting a transfer tax on properties selling for at least $5 million.
Prop. W is expected to raise $44 million annually, with most going into the city’s general fund. The new deal will send $5.4 million of that to students—not to City College—for their fees. Of that, $2.1 million a year for two years has been committed to students for their free education at City College, after which the allocation would have to be renewed by the city. The remainder will go to the students who already have fee waivers.
Responses seen in Twitter search results were generally positive overall. One account did point out that the people who inhabit San Francisco may be of a socio-economic strata that can comfortably afford to pay their own tuition.
people who live in SF are, on average, the last people who need free tuition to city college.
— john "b" fink (@adr) February 8, 2017
However, not everyone agreed with this view.
“Cutting out tuition charges also helps in a costly city where an income gap requires serious answers, not just rhetoric,” concluded the San Francisco Chronicle.