Reject plan for two-tier community college system

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Students’ access to high-demand classes should not depend on whether they can pay extra for the privilege. The Legislature should reject a bill that would set up a two-tier fee system for some community college classes. State and education officials should find a better solution to the space shortage in must-have classes than letting those with more financial resources skip to the head of the line.

AB 955, by Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, would let community colleges offer in-demand courses during the winter and summer breaks at a higher cost to students. Community college students normally pay $46 per course unit, but the new “extension” classes would charge $200 a unit, or about $600 for a three-credit course. Over the past month, two Assembly committees have given their approval to the bill.

The bill highlights a legitimate public concern: community college students who struggle to enroll in the classes they need in order to graduate or transfer to a four-year college. Community colleges slashed course offerings as a way to implement budgetary restraint during the economic downturn. The Public Policy Institute of California reported in March that community colleges dropped about 86,000 sections — a 21 percent reduction — between 2007-08 and 2011-12. Students sometimes have to wait months or years to get into the courses they need, which adds to the length and cost of their college careers.

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