Free College: San Francisco Offers Tuition-Free Plan

By Mentor Staff | Edited By Mentor Staff

Updated On November 2, 2021

Editorial Note: This content is based solely on the author's opinions and is not provided, approved, endorsed or reviewed by any financial institution or partner.

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San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced at a press conference yesterday that, starting next fall, the community college will be tuition-free for all San Francisco residents through the City College of San Francisco.

As first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco would become the first city in the nation to make community college free to all city residents. Any student who has lived in San Francisco for at least one year – regardless of income – is eligible.

“To California residents who are living in San Francisco, your community college is now free,” Lee said at the press conference.

The announcement follows a plan introduced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide free tuition to New York residents whose families earn less than $125,000 per year to any of New York’s state universities (State University of New York, or SUNY), city colleges (City University of New York, or CUNY) or community colleges.

However, the New York and San Francisco plans differ in several ways. While Cuomo’s tuition-free plan is income-based and includes all New York public universities, city colleges and community colleges, the San Francisco plan only applies to community colleges. Unlike Cuomo’s plan, the San Francisco plan will cover tuition for both full-time and part-time students and provide $500 for books and supplies for full-time, low-income students (whose tuition fees are currently waived) and $200 for part-time, low-income students.

San Francisco will fund tuition through Proposition W, which San Francisco voters approved last November. Proposition W imposes a transfer tax on properties that sell for $5 million or higher. The expected annual cost is $5.4 million, which the mayor committed to spend for the next two years. Of that total, $2.1 million is designated for tuition and $3.3 million for student expenses for current students as well as a 20% increase in enrollment.

Argus Institutional Headcount estimates that the City College of San Francisco serves approximately 60,000 students (about 36,000 of whom are considered credit headcount) each year, down from a high of over 100,000 students from the 2002-2003 academic year. According to the San Francisco Examiner, the school lost about one-third of its enrollment due to an issue regarding accreditation, which has since been resolved and last month was re-accredited for seven years.

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