Ballot Measure Would Give Students a Break

Jennifer Tinoco

Glendale College students may find their tuition fees reduced by 25 percent if the “Community College Governance, Funding Stabilization, and Student Fee Reduction Act,” the California Community College Initiative, passes on the June 8 ballot.

Although the initiative was first proposed in November of 2006, organizers failed to obtain enough signitures for it to qualify for the ballot.

The initiative required one million endorsement signatures from registered voters. According to the California Federation of Teachers, the required signatures are now complete.

ASGCC Student Body President David Arakelyan said, “the initiative requires 650,000 signatures,” but some people may have signed it more than once, therefore the goal was raised to a million.

Community College tuition is far lower that at the Cal State and UC campuses, but up until the early 1900s it cost nothing to attend most colleges in the state.

The Gavilan Library in Gilroy, Calif., states that community colleges were free dating back to 1916. The Web site reports that, “… the cost became $5 per unit, then $6, suddenly up to $26, and now back down to $20 per unit as of January 2007.”

Full-time students who are currently taking 12 or more units are be paying $240 plus student fees (inlcuding health fees) per semester. If the tuition reduces to $15 per unit, full time students will pay $180 plus student fees per semester.

Executive Vice President of Administrative Services, Larry Serot, said that the decrease in tuition fees has “definitely” raised enrollment in most community colleges throughout the state.

“I had to drop my math class since I was not able to pay it off,” said student Jonathan Zeron. “If tuition reduces $5, I think that it will help a lot because every dollar adds up.”

This initiative will not only help students financially, if passed, it will legitimize the imbalance that is cause by Proposition 98.

Proposition 98 is also known to guarantee “a minimum level of funding for public schools,” since 1996. Its allocation depends on “changes in enrollment, per capita personal income, and projections of state tax revenues,” stated on their Web site.
In other words, Prop. 98 distributes funds between elementary schools to high schools, as well as to community colleges.

“We are competing with the K-12 system,” said Serot. The problem lies with the way funds are being distributed. Elementary schools have the right to receive their money first, then middle schools, followed by high schools and leaving community colleges the last schools to receive their money.

If the initiative passes it will take community colleges out of the K-12 shared funds. This will speed up the process for community colleges to receive their funds sooner.

“We get a variety of students who are adults, going back to school, high school drop outs and most importantly, we have a lot of undocumented students here,” said Serot. “We need our funds faster to accommodate that growing number of students each semester,” Serot added.

The state tried to pass a ballot that would allow members from the Sacramento Board to control community colleges from anywhere in California. However, this ballot did not pass.

“I think that it makes sense for community members to take action in their community colleges because we [Board of Trustees] believe that it should be community based,” said Serot.

If passed, the initiative will change the constitution and state that every California community college should be run by community members, as it is done currently.

The next phase for the initiative is campaigning and raising public awareness.
“It cost approximately $1.4 billion to gather the required signatures. I estimate that it would probably cost about $3 to $4 million to campaign,” added Serot.

If this initiative passes, the tuition fees will be lowered starting in 2008. This tuition decrease would be implemented in the 109 community college campuses throughout the state.