Voters to decide fate of free City College extension in SF

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) San Francisco supervisors voted six to one today on a charter amendment to let voters decide during next year's November election whether to extend City College of San Francisco's free tuition program through the next decade.

In 2017, San Francisco became the nation's first city to make community college free, implementing a two-year pilot program in the fall of that year, set to expire after the 2019 spring semester.

Most supervisors supported the charter amendment during today's special meeting, with the exception of Supervisor Catherine Stefani who voted against it. Supervisors Malia Cohen, Sandra Lee Fewer and Hillary Ronen were not present.

Under the new measure, the city would put aside $15 million annually for the program and extend it through 2030.

Funding for the current pilot program came from 2016's Proposition W, which raised the real estate transfer tax on properties of more than $5 million. Voters approved Prop W by 61.8 percent.

During a rally ahead of today's meeting, outgoing Supervisor Jane Kim, who has been leading the free tuition effort, said that in addition to extending the program through the next decade, the charter amendment would allow for more generous stipends to help low-income students pay for textbooks and other costly supplies.%INLINE%

"This is a program that takes in any of our residents whether you're a high school student trying to take on additional classes to prepare for college or whether you're a mid-career adult looking to re-up on skills or advance or to switch careers," Kim said. "This is an institution that is for everyone and that is why this is something so important for our city to invest in."

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who cosponsored the legislation and is a former City College board of trustees member, said, "City College needs certainty around this program and that's why it's so important to have this charter amendment on the ballot."

The Free City College Program has been lauded by former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who has called for the city's program to become a national model.

"We promised the voters when they passed Proposition W, that the money would go primarily to City College and our students. We promised the students that they could get an education with free tuition. We keep our promises at City College," Thea Selby, City College board of trustees member,