California community colleges have increased their fees by six to 10 dollars nearly every year for the last few years while reducing the number of classes offered and enlarging class sizes. Community colleges seem to be one of the many places the state automatically turns to when looking to cut costs. A new bill, AB 955, was recently introduced to help offer more in-demand courses without any additional state funding. Sounds like a good idea, right? But what if you were told that these in-demand courses would cost a lot more than the current fee of $46 per unit?
AB 955 will offer more classes without using state funds and would create intersession extension programs that would offer people courses during the summer and winter outside of the regular school schedule. This is a reasonable proposition, but there is a catch: The price per unit would be at the discretion of the college. Colleges would be allowed to charge the non-resident fee of $200 per unit.
Community colleges in California offer classes at costs lower than those of the UC and CSU schools. This allows low-income students to jumpstart their education without breaking their wallets. But with the increases in fees throughout the years, California community colleges are becoming less affordable.
Governor Brown’s budget summary states, “The UC, CSU, and community colleges need to move aggressively to implement reforms to provide high quality instruction at lower cost, decrease the time it takes to earn a degree, and increase graduation rates by deploying their teaching resources more effectively.” If these intersession classes in summer and winter are too expensive for students to access, then students are still at risk of not enrolling in necessary classes in a timely manner. This will do nothing to increase their transfer rate.
Compared to the current price of $46 per unit, $200 per unit is unreasonable. This bill would not allow lower-income students to be able to attend the classes offered in the summer and winter. A student would have the upper hand simply by being able to afford these outrageous fees over the summer and winter, which are crucial times to advance and stay on track toward graduation and transfer to a four-year university. With already slim class offerings, students have had to prolong their stays at community colleges. If intersession courses were offered at the regular fee per unit, it would give students more access to classes and boost students’ chances of transferring in a timely fashion. Who wants to stay stuck at a community college because of a lack of courses?
In 2012, 95.2 percent of the admitted 5,266 transfer students to the UC system were from California community colleges. Potential UCR students will be impacted by the passage of this bill because they may not be able to transfer as soon as they’d like or they may lose interest in continuing their education due to time constraints.
Any student who attended community college before attending UCR knows the difficulty of enrolling in classes and the impact of the fee increases over the years. It takes determination and focus to map out a timeline to transfer at a reasonable rate. But how can students even think of transferring when they have to deal with battling each other to get into classes? Students who cannot afford to pay these intersession classes will be discouraged from trying to finish their requirements in order to transfer. “Our intent is to help students be able to get classes,” the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Das Williams, has said. Sure, the bill does not intend to exclude anyone, but in the end students who cannot afford the high costs will not enroll in summer and winter classes.
It’s great that these intersession classes are made available, but they should be available to everyone, not just those that are able and willing to pay the higher cost. Excluding lower-income students is just not right. Community colleges exist to make higher education accessible to everyone, and students rely on them to keep their costs lower than that of a university. For some, community college may be the only option available. Having to deal with increasing costs, as well as reduced class offerings, the chances of students finishing their college career in a timely manner is far-fetched.