By Sophie Proctor
On February 6th San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced that starting next fall, tuition will be free to San Francisco residents who attend the City College of San Francisco.
Last November, San Francisco voters passed Proposition W which allows a transfer tax to be placed on homes and commercial properties that sell for $5 million or higher. From there, the city will then set aside $5.4 million per year to cover enrollment fees as well as other expenses for students attending the City College.
The college will then be given $2.1 million over the next two years and use it to buy 45,000 credits for residents that have lived or worked in San Francisco for a year or more. Both full-time and part-time students qualify for free tuition and are to be provided money to purchase textbooks if needed.
Full-time students will be given $500 while part-time student will receive $200, which the city feels should be enough to cover the full cost of books and other expenses. Although many other states, such as New York and Minnesota, have already implemented tuition-free programs, San Francisco’s is different because it allows students to enroll without any income-eligibility requirements.
Concerns over this decision have risen because of the fact that some students will be receiving a free education even though they can easily afford it, unlike others who crucially need financial assistance. SF Bay area resident and PLNU transfer Jess McNely said, “I think free community college could be very beneficial to students. Even though community college is already cheap by comparison, some of my friends from San Francisco choose to take gap years to save for college.”
Mayor Lee stated in a recent press conference that, “This commitment will provide our residents the opportunity to attend college, continue to learn and create better lives for themselves. This is an investment in our youth, in our city and in our future.” Not only is the city focused on providing educational opportunities, but they are also hoping that this plan will help boost enrollment. Student enrollment has dropped close to 30,000 since 2012, according to a study done by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Bay Area resident and PLNU student Hannah Hyon said, “Taxes will go up and it could ultimately be harder for people to thrive or even survive in that already expensive community, however students who choose to attend City College will be graduating with less debt. There is a chance that once they graduate, there will be more enthusiastic efforts into putting that money back into the city.” Hyon continued, “If we could decrease the cost of higher education, graduates will be able to work towards saving for their future lives instead of digging themselves out of the bottomless hole of student loans.”
If successful, San Francisco’s plan could potentially spark inspiration in other cities across California. San Diego Mesa College student Grant Tallman said, “Because of the cost of tuition, even at a community college, students can be put off by the thought of having to pay that much for classes and ultimately choose to skip higher education. The possibility of San Diego choosing to follow in San Francisco’s footsteps is intriguing and I think would encourage many people to go back to school and get a degree which would help our society as a whole.”
While SF is the only city with no income eligibility information required for free tuition, the push to make community college free across the nation is becoming more and more apparent. States such as Rhode Island and Tennessee are currently working on plans similar to that of San Francisco’s.