Fall enrollment jumps as free City College kicks off

San Francisco residents still have time to enroll at City College of San Francisco for the fall 2017 semester and not have to pay a single penny.

On Thursday, Supervisor Jane Kim and the City College Board of Trustees celebrated and kicked off the Free City Program that will allow San Francisco residents who have lived in the state for at least one year to attend City College for free during the fall 2017 and spring 2018 semesters.

Officials are encouraging residents to enroll online now or enroll in-person on Aug. 7 at all City College campuses.

Voters in November last year approved Proposition W, an increase in the transfer tax rate on sales of residential and commercial properties of at least $5 million. Kim, who supported the proposition, said the funds generated would support making City College free for residents in The City.

The City’s controller’s office estimated The City would generate on average $45 million per year based on the most recent economic business cycle.

Kim said Thursday that San Francisco is the first in the nation to make community college free for residents:

“San Francisco is leading yet again to make community college free for all of our residents regardless of age, income, or any kind of prerequisite.”

The free program will give more opportunities to residents to earn a higher income, said Kim:

“We know that the average City College graduate makes on average $11,000 more than the same individual with just a high school diploma.”

Mayor Ed Lee said in February that The City will commit to spending $5.4 million annually over the next two years to fund the free City College program and provide grants to low-income students to help pay for books, transportation supplies and health fees.

The Board of Supervisors also approved a $1 million reserve fund for the program in case there is a decrease in revenue from the property transfer fund.

With The City now footing the bill for San Francisco residents, more than 30,000 people have now enrolled at the community college. Data from City College shows a 17 percent increase in full-time students compared to last year. Full-time students enrolled in credit-only courses increased by 25.5 percent.

The college saw enrollment decline over the last several years because of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges threatening to pull the college’s accreditation over the college’s financial planning and other deficiencies, such as not having an enough staff to sufficiently run the college.

At the beginning of the year, the commission reaffirmed the college’s accreditation for another seven years.

Assemblyman Phil Ting thanked the community and college faculty for supporting the college during the accreditation crises:

“I think the ACCJC picked on the wrong city.”

Ting said the next step is making community college free throughout the state:

“We’re going to be working hard to replicate what’s happening here in San Francisco all across the state to make sure we have not just free City College but free community college.”

City College Trustee Tom Temprano said City College is the place for students to transfer to a four-year university and to get jobs in the arts, technology, cannabis industry, or learning new skills:

“Now City College is the place that you can go if you want to do all of that for free.”