Mayor Ed Lee has agreed to spend $5.4 million in each of the next two fiscal years on free tuition to City College for city residents, and books for low-income students, in a long-sought deal that the Examiner was first to report this morning. The formal announcement was made this afternoon, although, as it turns out, the decision was reached at the end of last week.
Backing up a bit, free City College tuition seemed like a done deal in the fall when San Franciscans passed Prop W, a real estate transfer tax on expensive properties. That was supposed to funnel funds to City College according to a Board of Supervisors resolution that was non-binding, but amid a major budget deficit, the Mayor indicated he would spend the money, which was in the city's general fund and merely earmarked for CCSF, on homelessness services and other matters.
Then after advocacy and protests, the Board of Supervisors voted in December to allocate $9 million toward City College for free tuition, though at the time, the Mayor said he would distribute those funds over a longer period. As led by Jane Kim, the Board — which lacks the spending power of the Mayor — eventually convinced him to make the deal, which was reached in time for the fall semester.
“We’re making City College free for all San Francisco residents, and that’s really exciting,” Kim told the Examiner. “This is just the beginning of our free City College program.”
In the past, Supervisors have claimed, according to the Examiner's past coverage that $13 million a year was needed for city college. Before the deal, the Mayor was previously willing to pay $4.25 million a year after a smaller, $500,000 a year payment this year.
City College, which has been free in the past, has been charging a $46-a-credit fee that's typically paid by students, the Chronicle reports. Now students who have lived in Sn Francisco for more than a year won't have to do that, and full-time low income students — those who already receive a state-funded fee waiver — will get $250 a semester that they can use toward books, transportation, school supplies, and health fees.
CCSF celebrated last month when its accreditation was reaffirmed for the next seven years, as was expected, and now its goal will likely be to attract more students as it receives its state funding on a per-student basis. "The prospect of free community college will inspire people to take advantage of this educational opportunity and enroll at City College this fall,” City College Chancellor Susan Lamb told the Chronicle. Though CCSF enrollment has plunged from a watershed 90,000 to 65,000, new areas of study like a marijuana curriculum could entice students back.