San Franciscans Deserve Access to Community College Through Propositions B and W
Last year, President Obama announced a plan to make community colleges free for all students, stating, “America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, and trained the best workforce in the world. But in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to do more.” While this plan will have to wait for a functional Congress to become law, leaders at City College of San Francisco, as well as community colleges around the nation, are already working toward making education equality a reality. Last year, Oregon became the second state after Tennessee to pass a statewide initiative providing free community college. Cities across the country are working to implement their own Promise Programs. I was thrilled to attend a conference recently that offered models of Promise Programs already working. Here in San Francisco, the “Free City” proposal would provide access to community college to students who are San Francisco residents or who work at least part time in San Francisco. We need to pass Proposition W to make it work.
Never before has higher education been so key to succeeding in this country. According to the Georgetown Public Policy Institute and other think tanks, 65 percent of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school by 2020. Yet never before has higher education been more challenging to obtain. Millions of students are either priced out of college or taking on inordinate amounts of debt to continue their education, debt that continues to keep them from getting ahead for decades. Community colleges are often the doorway to higher education and success. I know firsthand how important higher education is to achieving success. We must work to keep community colleges affordable and accessible for everyone. We as a nation must take broad strides to fix the student debt problem and income inequality. Free access to community college is one small part in that effort.
The Board of City College of San Francisco recently voted on a resolution to reform Proposition 13, a reform that would bring an additional $9 billion to K-14 education in California. In the meantime, City College, in addition to celebrating championship football and basketball teams, continues to provide tens of thousands of Bay Area students of all ages and stages with exceptionally high-quality education and training so they can succeed in this ever-challenging city where rent and child care alone often exceed what many people earn in a year.
But we can serve many more students, and having an educated and enriched population benefits our entire community. Proposition B, an extension of our current parcel tax, will help tremendously. We should also not allow costs to get in the way of people obtaining education. If Tennessee can provide free community college, surely San Francisco can do the same. San Franciscans should approve Proposition W in November to fund the “Free City” initiative.
Dr. Amy Bacharach is a Trustee for the San Francisco Community College Board and is currently running for re-election. She is passionate about higher education policy. You can read more about her at www.amybacharach.com.