By Jade Leonardo
On Jan.10, student leaders from City College, alongside Chancellor David Martin and members of the administration, traveled to Sacramento to fight to keep a subsidized transportation program available to California college students.
Student Chancellor Heather Brandt was there and said there was a lot of discussion and while state legislators understood the need for subsidized public transportation for students, the persistent issue is finding the funding.
Students were able to present the idea of subsidized public transportation as a “win all the way around,” for students, colleges, transit agencies, and more – emphasizing that student attendance would improve and stress levels would decrease due to students not having to worry about paying for public transportation.
A 2021 study done by Temple College stated transportation is a “barrier to college completion,” and lowering transportation costs for students is a “promising strategy for increasing the likelihood that students will: remain enrolled one semester and one year later; complete a greater number of credits; and, earn a credential.”
City College of San Francisco’s students also attested to the fact that transit agencies could use a “bailout” due to hardships from the pandemic. Students mentioned a transportation program would be beneficial to the environment and overrun parking situations – students would likely take public transportation instead of driving to class, if a subsidized program were in place.
In addition to the trip to Sacramento, City College student leaders presented a resolution to the Associated Students Executive Council meeting on Jan. 27 where they were able to acquire sponsorship to move to the Student Senate for California Community Colleges (SSCCC). This resolution is to urge the SSCCC to make subsidized public transportation “a legislative priority on behalf of students at all 116 community colleges across the state.”
When asked if the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is actively seeking to work with college administrators on transportation programs for students, Deputy Spokesperson of Communications, Marketing, and Outreach Division Stephen Chun responded that the SFMTA has engaged with several colleges, including City College, over the years to discuss the SFMTA’s Class Pass Program. Through this program, students would pay a semester fee, $128 per student, for a transit pass that covers four months. According to Chun, “this program requires all students to pay this fee, regardless of whether they utilize the service, thus providing a discount for those that do.”
In response to this proposed fee, Associated Students Executive Council Treasurer Emily Oryall commented, “…this is a lot of money for community college students to pay, especially since many CCSF students go to CCSF specifically because it is free/low cost.” She also stated that the “$128 per semester is almost five times the approximately $29 that students pay in registration/health/representation fees per semester.”
Brandt also commented on this fee, “This is steep and a huge ask for students who lack the funds in the first place to have to pay this upfront with no option to opt out, particularly for our students who are paying out-of-state or international tuition, not to mention our non-credit students.”
The SFMTA does offer programs such as: the Lifeline Pass program which offers a 50% monthly pass discount, the START Clipper program which offers up to a 50% discount on single ride fares on most Bay Area transit areas for individuals at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, free Muni for all youth 18 years and under regardless of income status and free Muni for Seniors and People with Disabilities for individuals at or below 100% Bay Area Median Income.
While Brandt believes the free Muni program for youth is a “great program,” she stated it does not meet the needs of a majority of City College students, as they are not youth 18 years and under. She also believes “the students in this program are impacted when they age out” and they face “a barrier to accessing their education that they didn’t previously have.”
Students will then have to “juggle figuring that out, even at times not attending every class (which impacts grades) due to cost or not paying for every trip.” Brandt concluded her comment by saying, “This is the reality when you have to choose between eating or attending class.”
The City College student leaders hope to continue conversations with the SFMTA in an attempt to find a fair solution for all parties involved. They are also in communication with many local, state, and federal leaders with an aim to make transportation for California college students a priority. Furthermore, these students are discussing the potential of a Basic Needs Listening forum at the end of February, as well as another trip to Sacramento in the near future. For more information on these efforts, Brandt can be reached at email@example.com.