Free City College tuition for SF residents starts this fall

Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim announced Monday an agreement has been reached to offer free tuition for City College of San Francisco to all verified residents of The City.

The City has agreed to spend almost $5.4 million annually for the next two years, and is expected to begin subsidizing tuition costs beginning this fall.

Lee said:

“We want our students to be debt free. … I know a lot of people are dependent on our City College.”

The deal comes at the end of a years-long struggle to reaffirm accreditation for the largest community college in California, and makes San Francisco the first city in California or the nation to offer free tuition. Lee said:

“No other city in the great state of California can actually say that. … And not only say it but mean it.”

The funds will cover tuition for all credit classes along with $500 per year or $250 per semester for full-time students who demonstrate financial need and receive a Board of Governors fee waiver. Up to $200 per year or $100 per semester will be covered for part-time students who have a fee waiver.

Interim Chancellor of City College Susan Lamb said:

“The way in which we are going to be approaching this, is paying for credits.”

The money will go not only toward tuition but will also help students with transportation, books, supplies, and health fees.

City College will subsidize tuition to any San Francisco resident, regardless of income. Kim said:

“Even to the children of the founders of Facebook, community college should be free to all residents of San Francisco.”

The deal will also give City College a one-time $500,000 allotment to implement the plan.

Kim said:

“Making City College free is going to provide opportunities for more San Franciscans to enter into the middle class and for more San Franciscans to stay in the middle class if they already are there.”

The methodology to establish San Francisco residency has not yet been confirmed. Lamb said City College already has these checks in place, and they compare to how California determines residency, which is that is a state resident if they live in California for one year and a day.

The plan to subsidize tuition received the backing of the Board of Supervisors and voters — who approved a real estate transfer tax in November to help pay for it — though it very nearly didn’t happen in time for the coming school year.

After a sales tax measure to fund homeless services and transportation improvements failed in November, Lee introduced a budget realignment plan that proposed holding back some of the real estate transfer tax funds.

Monday’ deal was announced after weeks of talks involving the mayor’s office, Kim, City College and labor representatives, among others.


Bay City News provided additional information for this report.