San Francisco is one of the most progressive cities in the country, so it comes as a surprise that we are just now offering free college tuition. It was on Feb. 6 that Mayor Ed Lee announced that the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) would be offering free tuition, making San Francisco the first city in the country to do so.
For any legislation as far reaching as this one, there are enough moving parts to leave it open to controversy and critique. We at the San Francisco Foghorn acknowledge the imperfections in this act, but support free college tuition to those who would not be able to attend college otherwise.
The simple part of who gets free tuition at CCSF is already receiving said critique. The act states that anyone who has been a San Francisco resident for at least a year qualifies for this program. Some say this would cause people to move to San Francisco for only a year so as to qualify for the free tuition. San Francisco already has a displacement problem and critics claim free tuition would only exacerbate it.
However, as students who pay San Francisco rent and convenience costs, the Foghorn finds this theory shaky. The cost of renting an apartment and paying San Francisco food prices would be significantly higher than community college tuition. Even if tuition is paid for, the cost of living in San Francisco is so high, it would likely be cheaper for most people to pay community college tuition in a smaller and more affordable town.
Only having to be a San Francisco resident for a year is especially great for undocumented students, who are most likely ineligible for other financial aid and scholarships. CCSF could open doors for students looking for a path to a higher degree, or even just those looking for more education to further career opportunities.
The other critique of who qualifies for free tuition is… almost everyone does. There are no income eligibility requirements for free tuition at CCSF. This means a student who could easily afford the full tuition price receives the same support as a student who has CCSF as their only option. This is not to say that privileged students will come flocking to CCSF, but instead that city funds could be appropriated more effectively.
And speaking of city funds, USF students shouldn’t worry that San Francisco is taking money out of our bank accounts to put towards free tuition at CCSF. That is, unless you plan on selling a home worth more than $5 million in the near future. The city of San Francisco plans to use revenue raised from a previously passed tax on home sales over $5 million to fund CCSF. In other words, USF students shouldn’t expect increased MUNI prices or parking tickets to pay for free tuition.
Despite the worries about CCSF’s free tuition, this act is an overwhelmingly positive step towards framing higher education as a right. We are students, too. We know how overwhelming it can be to juggle school and a job. We also know how important a higher education is. It’s why we cram all night for exams and work odd jobs so we can keep cramming all night for more exams.
We support free tuition at CCSF not just because students shouldn’t have to work forty hours a week just to pay for school. We support this new act because everyone should be able to pursue higher education, regardless of their parent’s wealth. CCSF offering free tuition is an excellent first step towards this goal.