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.
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.