HomeAsian AmericansSF’s proposed cuts to free college program face opposition

SF’s proposed cuts to free college program face opposition

by Matthew Yoshimoto

After his father was laid off as a factory worker, City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees President Alan Wong said he witnessed firsthand the ability of the City College – through available ESL and culinary programs – to help his father rebuild his career and support the family.

Now, the Free City College Program, which offers full tuition coverage, is facing a substantial budget cut.

Wong, who serves as Co-Chair of the Free City College Oversight Committee, said the City and County of San Francisco are considering a reduction in funding for the Free City College program, which provides free tuition to all city residents. Since 2016, this program has been funded by Proposition W, a tax on property transfers exceeding $5 million.

These projected cuts were included in the Mayor’s proposed budget released on June 1. The city’s proposal would cut the program’s funding in half, from $18.9 million in 2023-24 to just $9.3 million in 2024-25 and $7.2 million by the next academic year. 

The Mayor’s office did not respond to AsAmNews’ inquiry by the time of publication.

“We need to as a community, push back against these damaging changes to our enrollment program that are being proposed,” Wong told AsAmNews. “I’m very concerned about what these proposals could mean for some of these programs that our community continues to depend on.”

Under the new proposal, starting in 2025, only select courses that align with specific educational plans may qualify for free enrollment, Wong noted. The specifics of these plans will be announced later this year.

Wong told AsAmNews that such courses could include English as a Second Language, Cantonese language courses for bilingual individuals and job training and development programs. 

With Asian students making up over a third of the college’s student body, Wong described the necessity to retain funding for the Free City College program. He said this program enables “ all San Franciscans wanting to advance themselves” to receive opportunities in higher education. 

“This is going back on a signed agreement that’s in black and white (2019-2029 Memorandum of Understanding),” said Wong to AsAmNews. “This is really important to our students because this disrupts the educational plans of our students, not knowing whether they can continue to have free City College as they are attending our school. It also harm our most historically marginalized communities, our low-income students, parents that need to pay and support childcare, in particular in the Asian community.”

Siwei Tang, former City College student and past campus Associated Student Body Student Chancellor, described the program as a “lifeline for my students who would otherwise be unable to pursue higher education.” Many students, including a substantial number of Asian students, rely on this program to pursue degrees and transfer to four-year universities, Tang explained. 

Tang told AsAmNews that she believes reducing access to free education will have a negative impact on the community and discourage many potential students from pursuing higher education.

“The Free City College program has helped me and all my classmates at City College be able to academically achieve or get job training while having to pay bills and care for family,” Tang said. “Cutting this program would deny opportunity and access for so many in our community to move ahead in their lives and careers.”

Corrections: A previous version of this article stated that Alan Wong’s father participated in the Free City College program, but he did not. The article also incorrectly named the 2019-2029 Memorandum of Understanding as Proposition W.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


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