City College of San Francisco Celebrates Start of Free Enrollment

City College of San Francisco Celebrates Start of Free Enrollment

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Above: Chancellor Mark Rocha addresses a crowd of supporters at a rally celebrating the start of free enrollment at the school. (All images credit: Makoto Takamine)

SAN FRANCISCO -- City College of San Francisco (CCSF) is marking the start of free enrollment for city residents, the first community college in the country to do so. It’s an important step for a school that not long ago was staring down the barrel.

School staff, students and supporters turned out Thursday to celebrate, and to urge residents to enroll.

“With the ever increasing costs of a college education, San Franciscans are taking an important step in making higher education accessible to all, regardless of income,” said Supervisor Jane Kim in a press release. “I’m very thankful to all those who made this happen, from the Free City Coalition members who walked the blocks to the students who showed up to rallies.”

Kim joined several dozen people at a rally in Civic Center Thursday, including CCSF’s new chancellor, Mark Rocha, who said the program reflected the “core values” of San Francisco by “providing a quality education to anyone who asks for it.”

JJ Narayan, a CCSF student and leader of the Free City Coalition, described free enrollment as a “bold and radical example of resistance in the larger fight back against downsizing and privatization.”

JJ Narayan (far right) stands with supporters of Free City at a rally in San Francisco Thursday. 

In 2013 the school’s now disgraced accreditor, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), voted to terminate CCSF’s accreditation the next year. That set off a near seven-year battle over the fate of the school, which in the interim saw enrollment drop to near terminal numbers.

The ACCJC has since come under intense scrutiny by state and federal authorities, and faced a possible loss of its own recognition by the U.S. Department of Education largely over its handling of CCSF.

In January the accreditor reaffirmed CCSF’s accreditation for another seven years.

While other states have made community college free to certain populations, CCSF is the first community college in the country to offer unconditional free enrollment to all residents.  The move comes after San Francisco voters approved Prop. W in November. The measure put a tax on the sale of luxury real estate in the city. To date it has raised $27.5 million, and is credited with boosting credit enrollment by 25%, the first time enrollment has risen at the school since 2008.

CA Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco)

California Asssemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) told the crowd that he is now getting calls from colleges around the state wanting to replicate the model at CCSF, which he called another “ San Francisco first.”

School officials are now actively promoting enrollment. There is a Free City page on the CCSF website where students can go to enroll.  An online catalogue of course offerings is also available for the fall, 2017 semester. And prospective students can also go to any one of CCSF’s eight campuses starting August 7.

Enrollment for the coming semester ends August 18.

Eligible students must have lived in San Francisco for one year. Free City also covers in-state tuition for homeless San Franciscans, foster youth, and undocumented residents qualifying under AB540, AB13, and AB2000. Eligible Free City participants will receive extra financial assistance of up to $250 per semester for books and transportation costs.

CCSF staff celebrate Free City

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated CCSF is the first community college to offer free enrollment. Other states like Tenessee and Oregon offer free enrollment on condition to certain groups. 'Free City' is available to all San Francisco residents regardless of things like GPA, income, etc.