Experiments in Free College Begin in San Francisco, NY

Vincent Barreras

San Francisco will become the first city in the United States to offer free community college to its residents, while New York will soon offer tuition-free public universities.
The plan was passed in early February, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced that this will go into effect next fall semester. The details of the bill state that San Francisco will set aside $5.4 million per year to cover enrollment fees and other expenses for City College of San Francisco students.
San Francisco plans to fund this by putting a transfer tax on properties that sell for 5$ million or higher.
Students will also receive money towards books and other services; $500 for fulltime and $200 for part-time students.
Any person who has lived in San Francisco for a least one year will be eligible for this, regardless of their income.
New York is another progressive bastion willing to discuss free tuition. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has approved free college tuition for state universities, city colleges, and community colleges.
Cuomo’s plan will only apply to families who earn less than $100,000 per year, whilst Lee’s applies to all residents who have lived in the city for at least one year.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was present to speak in New York when the mayor held a press conference regarding free college tuition, expressing his upmost support of this legislation. If you recall, during his presidential run, Sanders was quite vocal on the idea of tuition free college.
Sanders is quoted saying, “It’s an idea that’s going to reverberate not only throughout the State of New York, but throughout this country.”
City College of San Francisco is hoping this will help their enrollment, which has dropped from 90,000 to 65,000 since 2012.
Private schools have also voiced their concerns on the legislation. They fear this will take away from their own enrollment, which could prove to be interesting to see how they intend on responding to this.
There are multiple viewpoints about whether this country should move in the direction of “free college,” some positive and others negative.
“Free community college is important because everyone should have equal opportunity to be educated. This will help with the burden of college debt since people can get the first two years free.” said Joe Mela, a 19-year-old Engineering Major at Bucks County Community College.
Jason Yakimiv, a 19-year-old Pre- Allied Health major at Bucks County Community College said, “It’s awesome idea, I don’t know if everyone will be on board, but only time will tell.”
Erik Onchanu, an 18-year-old Business Major at Bucks County Community College said, “I don’t think we should have free community college, people won’t value it as much if they get it for free. If you fail a class, it doesn’t matter because you can just take it again, whereas you pay and are more accountable for the outcome. If you’re like this and get a job these same qualities can carry over. If people go for free they won’t take it serious.”
This issue has many perspectives as you can see. San Francisco will pay close attention to how this works and if it succeeds, could inspire other cities to follow.