Proposal would make community college free for SF residents

Supervisor Jane Kim wants free community college education available for all San Franciscans — and she plans on having The City’s wealthiest residents pay for it.

Kim announced her plan to eliminate college tuition for City College of San Francisco students on the steps of City Hall Tuesday as teachers, students and education leaders rallied alongside in support.

Kim’s plan, titled the Free City Proposal, would not only tackle the rising tuition costs at CCSF, but also chip away at costs associated with being a student, like paying for books, transportation and childcare. Low-income CCSF students who already receive federal or state assistance for tuition would be granted up to $1,000 per year in financial support, if the proposal is passed.

The plan would need to receive a stamp of approval by the Board of Supervisors before becoming a reality.

Currently, students attending CCSF pay $46 per unit, totaling at $1,104 every year for full-time students, as well as more than $1,700 for textbooks and supplies and roughly $1,300 for transportation, according to the 2015-2016 Student Expense Budget for CCSF. San Francisco’s soaring housing prices also play a big part in hindering students’ financial ability to pursue higher education, Kim said.

“CCSF has typically been the institution that has allowed our residents to rise to middle class and give them higher earning power,” Kim said, adding that students with an associate degree from the community college earn on average $11,000 more per year than those who only have high school diplomas.

The proposal is estimated to cost The City $12.8 million annually, and would be implemented no later than 2017 if passed, according to Kim.

Funding for the Free City Program would come from revenue gained through a proposed “Mansion Tax” ballot measure, which Kim authored and introduced to the Board of Supervisors last December.

If the measure is passed by the board and later approved at the ballot in the November election, it could bring in as much as $29 million in new revenue for the General Fund. The measure would increase the transfer tax for both commercial and residential property sales valued at $5 million or more by .25 percent. The measure would also create a new tax bracket for property sales valued at more than $25 million, with a 3 percent transfer tax, Kim said.

“We can’t stop the luxury housing market and it’s impact on our city but we can ask those that are contributing to it to contribute a little bit more to make San Francisco more equitable,” Kim said.

Any San Francisco resident enrolled at CCSF would qualify for the free tuition or supplemental aid, as well as students working at least half-time in The City. International and out-of-state students would not qualify for the Free City Program and would still have to pay the higher enrollment fee of $211 per unit.

The proposal could be introduced to the Board of Supervisors as early as next week, Kim said.

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