It’s a common complaint at virtually every college campus across the country: the cost of earning a college degree is too high. Between tuition, fees, books, and living expenses, the cost of attending college is becoming less obtainable for many people. Luckily, a new trend is taking root in San Francisco that could change the way we think about a college education for ever. What is this trend? A tuition free college experience.
The Free University of San Francisco is based in the basement of a store in the Mission District in San Francisco. Underneath the Viracocha store, students meet for five weeks to study a particular subject. The creator of The Free University is Alan Kaufman, a former instructor at the Academy of Art University and poet. Kaufman wants to separate education from commerce.
“We don’t need walls, we don’t need desks to impart knowledge,” Kaufman said. “The idea of a free university is that it’s monetarily free, free of constraints, free of any kind of administration.”
The Free University opened its door on February 5, 2011. So far, the school has offered courses such as “Abolishing Corporate Personhood to Create Authentic Democracy” and “Restoring San Francisco’s Urban Wildlands.” Kaufman hopes to expand the school even further by creating specific colleges, such as an art school and a law school, and his ambitions reach even further than that:
“Call us crazies, San Francisco crazies, but we’re doing it anyways,” he said. “We believe that we are a system-changing revolution.”
Evidently, this isn’t the first free university in the U.S. There have been many free schools in the past, especially in San Francisco and the Bay Area. During the 1960s, there were many Freedom Schools in the South. These schools were designed to help African American students access a higher education in spite of racism that ran rampant in that area of the country.
Evan Karp is a writer and website founder who has taught a class at The Free University. He was very impressed with the enthusiasm of the students and the quality of the school.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Karp said. “Everyone was passionate. Certainly that was what I wanted out of a university experience that I didn’t get.”
Hopefully this idea will spread. Robert Cohen is a history and education professor at NYU. He expects there to be more free schools across the country soon.
“Once you show that there’s a hunger for these kind of courses, maybe other institutions will pick up on it. Lawyers do pro bono work. Why can’t universities?”
Via The New York Times
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