Free City! The Fight for San Francisco’s City College and Education for All tells the story of the five years of organizing that turned a seemingly hopeless defensive fight into a victory for the most progressive free college measure in the US.


In 2012, the accreditor sanctioned City College of San Francisco, one of the biggest and best community colleges in the country, and a year later proposed terminating its accreditation, leading to a state takeover. Free City! follows the multipronged strategies of the campaign and the diverse characters that carried them out. Teachers, students, labor unions, community groups, public officials, and concerned individuals saved a treasured public institution as San Francisco’s working-class communities of color battled the gentrification that was forcing them out of the city. And they pushed back against the national “reform” agenda of corporate workforce training that drives students towards debt and sidelines lifelong learning and community service programs. Combining analysis with narrative, Free City! offers a case study in the power of positive vision and solution-oriented organizing and a reflection on what education can and should be.


Free City! is a timely and urgently needed saga of successful resistance to the corporate forces threatening the very existence of public higher education in California. It is a meticulously documented history, a breathless narrative, and a comprehensive guide to action all in one. The lessons learned in the fight to save City College of San Francisco need to be widely understood and applied by all educators, students, and community members committed to the struggle for education for all.” — Justin Akers Chacón, professor of Chicano/Chicana Studies, San Diego City College, coauthor of No One is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence on the US-Mexico Border and author of Radicals in the Barrio: Magonistas, Socialists, Wobblies, and Communists in the Mexican-American Working Class

Free City! The Fight for San Francisco's City College and Education for All

  • PM Press 2021

    New paperback

    288 pages