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CCSF trustees move forward with free-tuition deal

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Beth LaBerge/2012 Special to S.F. Examiner

All seven trustees at City College of San Francisco agreed Thursday to move forward with a $5.4 million agreement to make tuition free next school year.

CCSF Board of Trustees President Thea Selby hailed the agreement as a victory and a second round of good news for the college, which had its accreditation renewed last month for seven years.

“I look at this as a one-two punch,” Selby said. “Students just don’t have to worry anymore. And then, building on top of that, we have free City College.”

But the Board of Trustees also unanimously voted to urge city officials, including Supervisor Jane Kim and Mayor Ed Lee, to find additional funding to pay for any undocumented immigrants who live in San Francisco that were left out of the deal.

“It’s important that this board make a strong and unequivocal statement in support of our undocumented students,” said CCSF Trustee Tom Temprano.

The agreement will cover tuition costs for nearly 30,000 San Francisco residents in the upcoming school year, as well as school-related expenses like books for low-income students. The agreement only covers tuition for students who pay for $46 per unit, in-state tuition fees.

At least 600 undocumented students at CCSF will have free tuition next school year, according to the school. But those undocumented San Francisco residents who pay higher, out-of-state tuition fees will not be covered by the agreement.

Kim, who reached the agreement with the mayor last week after a months-long discussion over funding, told the trustees that she is “committed” to finding more funds for those excluded, but college officials don’t know how many there might be.

“Even though it is a higher dollar amount, we are committed to do that,” Kim said. “The problem is, how do we identify these students?”

CCSF does not currently keep track of undocumented students, except for those who qualify for in-state tuition through Assembly Bill 540. The trustees argued Thursday over whether to create a list of undocumented students, fearing that the Trump administration could subpoena the information to deport students.

Trustee John Rizzo also led a discussion over whether to urge just the mayor to spend more money on the effort for undocumented students. He also encouraged his colleagues to urge the mayor to use money from Proposition W, a real-estate transfer tax voters approved in November.

Kim had promised during the campaign to use potential Prop. W funds on free tuition. But in December, the mayor decided to spend a portion of the funds on the effort and instead use the money on other priorities.

On Monday, the mayor announced he would spend $5.4 million annually over the next two years on CCSF tuition and expenses, or $1.1 million more a year than he previously planned.

In the end, the trustees urged the mayor, Board of Supervisors and an oversight committee in charge of the effort to work with the chancellor to support undocumented students and secure additional funding for them.

“This is the beginning of the program, and more than anything our goal was to begin in August 2017,” Kim said. “I’m hoping that we will be able to do that.”

But because of the late decision, CCSF administrators are concerned there may not be enough time to offer free tuition by next semester.

“The time frame on this is very tight,” said CCSF Vice Chancellor Ron Gerhard. “We have to have a functioning program in place by the beginning of registration.”

The administration has until April 17 — the start of registration — to reprogram its computer systems and prepare for the effort.

“It cannot go unacknowledged that this is the first major commitment that City Hall has made to City College in its history,” said CCSF Trustee Rafael Mandelman. “This isn’t everything … but it is a framework to build on.”

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