SF looks to make struggling City College tuition-free

The City College of San Francisco will be going tuition-free, at least for some students.

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted 9-1 Tuesday to allocate $9 million to cover tuition for the fall 2017 semester alone, with an additional $13 million for each of the next two academic years, but Mayor Ed Lee says he plans to spread the funding out over a longer period and offer free tuition only to students in need of financial assistance.

[RELATED: REPORT: ‘Free’ community college would cost NYC up to $232 million per year]

“Our responsibility grows because we are one of the wealthiest cities in the world, which means we cannot only dream up these concepts, we can actually afford to pay for them,” Supervisor Jane Kim, who led the charge against Mayor Ed Lee, told The San Francisco Chronicle

While San Francisco is one of America’s wealthiest cities, with an average household income of $80,643 in 2015, the city’s community college is arguably one of the worst.

In fact, the school is struggling to maintain its accreditation after two officials who were hired to investigate a pre-existing accreditation crisis were unable to explain the thousands of dollars spent on fine-dining and international travel, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Additionally, The Chronicle notes that the community institution will now have to repay the state $39 million because it apparently cannot prove that thousands of online courses were actually taught between 2011 and 2014.

[RELATED: Leftist think tank claims free tuition would benefit the rich more than the poor]

The school’s financial and administrative struggles have resulted in a sharp decline in student enrollment, with Inside Higher Ed reporting earlier this year that enrollment had dropped from around 90,000 in 2012 to just 79,000 in the current academic year, which subsequently resulted in a plan to cut faculty positions by 26 percent over a six-year period.

Indeed, the school’s interim chancellor, Susan Lamb, acknowledged when speaking with ABC 7 that her school is short on students, noting that her “budget is based on the number of students we [have] so our main way of addressing that is looking at ways we can grow.”

Although Lee hasn’t indicated that he will veto the resolution outright, he did explain that he won’t spend the exact amount suggested by the Board of Supervisors, instead recommending $500,000 for the next fiscal year and $4.25 million each consecutive year.

According to the Bay City News, the mayor’s plan is to spread the allocation out over a longer period of time while making it available “for those students unable to pay,” rather than for all students, discretion he is able to exercise because the funds come from a property sales tax increase that was approved by referendum but cannot be legally designated for City College.

Kim, however, asserted that advocates of the tax hike were very clear with voters that it was intended to fund a tuition-free City College, saying, "We did not fight for, campaign for, and door knock for revenue to solve other city problems. We campaigned to make City College free for all students."

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski