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Bernie Sanders Gives Speech About ‘Free City’

Will Carruthers/Ingleside-Excelsior Light

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT-D) spoke to a packed crowd in City College of San Francisco’s Diego Rivera Theater to celebrate the college’s free tuition program for city residents that launched in August.

Sanders used his Friday, Sept. 22 speech at CCSF’s flagship Ocean Avenue campus to tell students, faculty and community members that programs like free public higher education, universal healthcare and college debt forgiveness could be used to fight the nation’s growing economic inequality.

Free City College will be a model for people around the country, according to Sanders.

“It is a national embarrassment that we have hundreds of thousands of young people who want a higher education, but are unable to get that education for one reason: Their family lacks the money,” Sanders said. “What we are saying today and the example that this college is setting is that everyone who has the desire and the ability should be able to get an education.”

“In a highly competitive global economy where the good jobs out there require more and more education… it is our job as a nation to understand that public education can no longer simply mean 1st grade to 12th grade,” Sanders continued. “Our job now when we talk about free public education is to make certain that we’re talking about making public colleges and universities tuition free.”

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, who led the effort to make City College tuition free, announced her plan to introduce legislation to make child care free in San Francisco.

“Two years ago, Sen. Sanders inspired me to think that free public higher education was possible today,” Kim said. “Last year here in San Francisco we did it. We made City College free for all of our residents.”

The Free City College program is a crucial program for District 11 residents, one of the city’s poorest areas, according to Board of Trustees Vice President Brigitte Davila, who resides in the district.

“In District 11, a lot of people are taking City College classes — I’m one of them,” Davila said, adding that other policies that Sanders supports, including universal health care, would benefit many residents.

City College’s enrollment is up 11 percent for a total of 45,482 since the free tuition program began, according to a college enrollment report.

Jessica Buchsbaum, an English as a Second Language instructor and member of the American Federation of Teachers 2121, said the event was a celebration of Kim’s progressive politics and an exploration of taking the program nationwide.

“This is not a new idea,” Buchsbaum said, adding that City College was free until 1983. “[Free City] is about leveling the playing field.”

Waiting in a line of hundreds of people before the event, two current City College students said they were benefiting from the program.

“It’s one less thing to think about,” said Lauren Haggins, a 30-year-old student completing the second year of a Real Estate associates degree. “The environment is different this year. Everyone was waiting for this to happen.”

Shirley Acuna, 25, a first-year student at City College who returned after a five-year break from school, said she hoped to hear Sanders’ thoughts on how the country should move forward and how to expand the free college program to other states.

Original community journalism takes money, time and hard work. You can now support the Light on Patreon. Visit www.patreon.com/ielight to sign up.

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