Thursday, April 15, 2021
News + Politics Free City College for all? It's entirely possible

Free City College for all? It’s entirely possible

Kim announces plan to pay tuition for all San Francisco residents -- and the price tag is very reasonable


Sup. Jane Kim announced today a plan to make City College free for San Francisco residents – a dramatic step that could end the enrollment crisis at the school, give thousands of additional students the skills they need to compete in the workplace – and cost the city less than $13 million.

Sup. Jane Kim has a plan to make City College free
Sup. Jane Kim has a plan to make City College free

Kim released her plan at a crowded event on the steps of City Hall, with students, educators, labor leaders, and a number of elected officials joining in her call.

When the state of California created the community college system, it was free, and until 1984, nobody paid tuition. But no a student enrolled full time pays about $1,100 a year – and then has to shell out another $1,700 for books and supplies and as much as $1,300 a year for transportation.

And that’s on top of the insane cost of living in the city.

“Higher education isn’t a luxury,” Kim said. “When students have to make the choice between paying rent or paying tuition, buying groceries or buying textbooks, we have to act.”

Under the plan, the city would cover tuition costs for all students who live or work in San Francisco. Students who already get financial aid would receive up to $1,000 a year for textbooks and supplies.

The benefits would be immediate: The City College administration is cutting classes and struggling with declining enrollment, thanks to the corrupt and now-discredited agency that tried to shut the school down. Allowing students to attend without worrying about tuition would boost enrollment and allow the school to stem the cuts.

And the cost is, by any standard, pretty minimal. I was actually startled to see the bottom line – just $13 million a year? That’s a tiny fraction of what we are losing to PG&E. It could be paid for easily with Kim’s plan for a modest tax on the most expensive luxury housing, which she is talking about putting on the November ballot.

So this could be a game-changing moment in local education – and could set the standard for where we ought to be going, which is free college for all.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.


  1. How about getting City College [re]accredited first, so those degrees will actually count for something other than just personal enrichment.

  2. It would certainly relieve City College of their responsibility to track student bills – one reason they got in so much trouble to begin with. And since they won’t need a bursar any longer I supposed we can expect the employees in that now-useless office to be laid off so the budget can be reduced, right?

  3. I like both the parcel tax idea, and free tuition. Part of me really thinks that the the parcel tax revenue should go into the affordable housing trust fund .

  4. yeah! free stuff for everyone! No real incentive to actually do well in school since you aren’t actually paying for anything. Talk about classes full of unmotivated students…

  5. Your math is not right.
    The bill does not pay for the tuition.
    The bill provides free tuition. The cost is 13 million.

  6. $13m would pay the $1100 tuition of 12,000 students. I thought there were 70k students? ??

    Is Jane our local version of “Donald Sanders”?

  7. Just remove two of the unwanted complete streets programs that costs around 6 million of more apiece and you could covert the tuition costs. Right now there are at least four neighborhoods opposing the SFMTA plans for their streets. Since the red lanes have gone onto Mission Street, there is a huge upheaval and unrest. No one likes the results. The Mission residents would gladly trade red lanes for free City College education.

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