CCSF's critical role in local economy highlighted in report 

click to enlarge S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner file photo

Everybody knows that City College of San Francisco is in crisis and in jeopardy of closing. What is less widely agreed upon is exactly what impact this has on every San Franciscan's day-to-day lives.

A new report I commissioned from The City's Budget and Legislative Analyst makes the facts clear: City College generates well over $300 million in economic activity every year. The loss of CCSF would be a complete disaster for The City and its economy.

The majority of this benefit goes to low-income students gaining job skills, adults obtaining their GEDs, immigrants learning English for the first time and others seeking opportunity in a city that's increasingly unaffordable to live in.

In short, San Francisco can't afford to lose City College. This report puts into the public record a clear picture of how critical CCSF is to San Francisco's economy, including its noncredit courses that are under attack by the accrediting agency.

CCSF boosts the earning power of San Francisco's most vulnerable residents. Nearly half — 45 percent — of the college's 80,000 students are enrolled in noncredit courses that provide some of the most important economic gains to San Franciscans, the aforementioned English and GED courses. Students who obtain a GED certificate make an average of $8,840 more per year. Similarly, English language learners earn $13,500 more per year than they could on average had they not taken the course.

Yes, San Francisco's economy is booming and job growth is high, but not everyone can be a tech worker. City College develops the wide range of skill sets and workers needed to make The City run, from hospitality workers to engineers. For all San Franciscans, it provides skilled workers serving them in all facets of daily life. For example, last year 87 CCSF students completed a licensed vocational nurse program, which is equal to 75 percent of local employers' annual job demand in that sector.

There is no alternative to City College. Local community colleges would be completely overwhelmed by the influx of students. Attending San Francisco State University wouldn't be an option for everyone either, as students would have to pay upward of $10,000 dollars more for similar two-year programs. For-profit colleges — which are increasingly exploiting low-income people — are even worse, as they can charge can charge up to 17 times more for similar programs. It is City College's affordability, diversity of opportunities and accessibility that makes it such a treasure.

The $300 million in CCSF-generated economic activity figure only scratches the surface of the true impact of CCSF. It conveys $118 million in local revenue, including tuition and local taxes, plus $188 million in state and state and federal appropriations. The latter is important — student aid doesn't only go to tuition, but also includes food and rent that allows low income students to survive while pursuing their education and circulates money into our local economy.

The report doesn't detail the broad, sweeping impacts of education. Imagine, for example, the impact of a culinary arts student opening a restaurant that employs a dozen workers, keeping a commercial corridor vibrant, and in turn securing employment for several restaurant workers. Others learn a second language or new computer skills that improves their productivity at work. Every student that CCSF opens its doors to can provide that level of impact; for many, it's their only such opportunity. These impacts are real and significant to The City's economic lifeblood.

CCSF enriches the lives of nearly all San Franciscans. The report I commissioned describes this impact in stark economic terms and plainly describes what we already knew to be true: City College is a unique and irreplaceable pathway for opportunity, equity and prosperity for every San Franciscan.

The report can be found here:

Eric Mar is a member of the Board of Supervisors, representing District 1.

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