The war for classes in community colleges rages on as California lawmakers seek to raise intersession tuition costs at six campuses in an experimental pilot program.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed off on Assembly Bill 955 on Oct. 10, aiming to provide more in-demand extension classes during intersessions by charging students more for units. The bill will launch the pilot program, potentially raising intersession tuition by 400 percent in six community colleges: Pasadena City College, College of the Canyons, Long Beach City College, Solano Community College, Crafton Hills Community College, and Oxnard College.
However, participating in the pilot program is optional.
The bill states that since budget cuts took effect in 2008, community colleges have offered nearly 100,000 fewer courses, which has created a “loss of access for 600,000 students.” Due to lack of course availability during summer and winter sessions, many students have had to prolong their attendance at community colleges.
Despite having faced millions of dollars in budget cuts since 2008, California Community Colleges received $210 million in the 2012-2013 school year as a result of Proposition 30. This year, GCC was able to reinstate 220 classes, with an estimated 180 classes during intersession, according to vice president of administrative services Ron Nakasone. Approximately $1 million from Proposition 30 was used towards reinsating classes on campus.
With Proposition 30 having provided funds to add more courses to the community colleges, Nakasone said AB 955 made more sense before Proposition 30, when community colleges were required to cut classes due to lack of funds.
“With the funding coming back, it makes less sense,” he said.
The bill states that it seeks to cut community college attendance to four years or less by offering high-demand courses during winter and summer sessions at a higher cost, while potentially reducing the number of wait-listed students. Per unit costs would rise from $46 to $200, meaning California students would face paying the same as out-of-state residents; however, students only have to pay if they choose to take the classes.
The legislation requires at least one of the participating campuses to implement the program by January 2014. The other participating campuses must follow suit by July 1.
Because PCC will not have a winter session, the campus will not be the first to adopt the program. It has yet to be announced which of the six campuses will be the first to test out the plan.
When the bill was first introduced, PCC superintendent-president Mark Rocha said that the college would not implement “two-tier” tuition fees “under any circumstances.”
GCC’s president, David Viar, is opposed to the concept of the bill and does not think that it is good state policy. He said it encourages the legislature and the governor to increase state funds for community colleges by having the campuses raise their own tuition fees.
“That is a mistake,” Viar said. “I think we should maintain our fees as low as possible with strong financial aid so we can continue to serve as many people that need our education as we can.”
Viar said a better alternative is to raise awareness among the public about the importance of an educated society so that they can be prepared to support tax revenue, calling it “a good investment.”
The bill also address the value of educated workers, warning that the state’s need for an educated workforce is not met by the current number of graduates. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the state will need one million workers with a bachelor’s degree by 2025.
Viar said that, rather than increasing tuition, the state should make funding community colleges a priority with the amount of revenue that they have available.
The pilot program will be carried out in the aforementioned six community colleges until January 2018. By January 2017 the Legislative Analyst’s Office is required to submit a written report on the program’s effectiveness.