California Bill Proposes Adding Community College Classes at Higher Cost

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by Laura Olson, Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Students at California community colleges could see additional class options for short summer and winter sessions under a bill that passed the state Assembly on Monday, but those courses would come with a higher price tag.

The measure from Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, would allow community colleges to make courses available between the traditional fall and spring semesters. It does not provide additional state funding to pay for the extra classes.

Fees for the classes authorized under AB955 would be charged at nonresident rates. The average cost is $200 per unit, compared with $46 for state-subsidized credits during traditional semesters.

Class offerings at California community colleges have been reduced as a result of state budget cuts, Williams said. Proposals to restore money for higher education would reinstate only part of the $1.5 billion cut from those colleges.

He cited a March report from the Public Policy Institute of California that found 600,000 students have been turned away from state community colleges.

With the additional course offerings, students could take a high-demand class without waiting another semester or year, allowing them to complete their degrees sooner and freeing up spaces for other students during the regular semester, Williams said.

“We must recognize the reality that the existing system is not meeting students’ needs,” he said.

Students who are only a few credits away from graduating and military veterans who need to remain enrolled to maintain their financial aid are among those expected to take advantage of the new courses.

Several community college systems, including those in Los Angeles and San Diego, have opposed the bill, along with the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges. The colleges have said setting different fee levels would disenfranchise lower-income students.

Democrats speaking against the bill on Monday said they disagreed with creating an unequal fee structure.

“To say it’s OK to charge some students one tuition level and others another, to me is just not what it means to have a college system that serves all the students in the state of California,” said Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo.

Williams described the measure as “not the perfect solution,” saying he also intends to continue pushing for additional state money for community colleges.

“If you fear a two-tiered system, I’ve got to wake you up: It’s already here,” Williams said. “There’s one tier that can get in and one tier that is locked out.”

The Assembly approved the legislation Monday on a 48-12 vote, over objections from some Democrats and one Republican. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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