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Lawmakers Pass CCSF Free Tuition Resolution, Send Plan To Tax Rich Homebuyers To Voters

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- San Francisco lawmakers approved a resolution to make City College of San Francisco the first tuitionfree college in the country.

Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 in favor of the resolution to make CCSF free to residents and city workers.

The plan will cost an estimated $12.6 million in the first year.

Earlier Tuesday, students and staff from City College of San Francisco marched through City Hall chanting, "Free City College!" They wanted to let the Supervisors know that free tuition would change their lives.

"Paying for tuition is a big struggle, so having it for free would be a great opportunity for me and my daughter," said CCSF student and single mom Vanessa Valenzuela.

The vote brings free tuition a step closer to reality at CCSF, but if the students don't pay, the question of who should foot the bill remains.

Supervisor Jane Kim introduced the resolution back in April. She says she did it because on average a city college graduate makes $11,000 more a year than a person who only has a high school degree.

"Making City College free for all of our residents is ensuring we are giving greater opportunities to everyone," says Kim.

The money will have to come from somewhere, or someone. Kim has also proposed a plan to get it from rich homebuyers by increasing the sales tax when properties worth more than $5 million are bought and sold.

"It's going to be such a small percentage that they are not even going to realize that it's going to be coming out from their taxes," says Valenzuela.

Supervisor Mark Farrell disagrees. He was the lone vote against the resolution.

"I'm very supportive of having free City College in San Francisco," says Farrell. "But the way we are doing it right now, or the way my colleagues are proposing it is just the wrong approach."

Farrell says he did not vote for the proposal because free City College should be talked about during the budget session when all the city's priorities are laid out on the table for debate.

To have a separate discussion about $13 million outside the context of our budget is just the wrong approach," he says.

Still, following a tumultuous few years at CCSF with an accreditation lawsuit and plummeting enrollment, some see free tuition as one way to save the institution.

"We want to bring City College back to the community, and the community back to City College," said Tracey College, coordinator of CCSF's Family Resource Center.

The resolution passed on Tuesday also provides grants for low-income students to pay for books, transportation and housing.

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