Nonsensical tuition increase

CITY AFFAIRS: A bill passed by the California State Assembly which raises tuition during shorter intersessions at state community colleges is not realistic.

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A bill recently passed in the California State Assembly allowing community colleges to charge nonresident tuition during summer and winter sessions just doesn’t make sense.

AB 955 will raise tuition during the community college system’s summer and winter intersessions from $46 per unit to the nonresident rate of $200 per unit for all students, regardless of residency status.

The author of the bill, Assemblymember Das Williams, has said he hopes the bill will shorten the amount of time students spend in school and help decrease the amount of debt they have upon graduating. Proponents of the bill have said it also aims to increase funds for community colleges to create more classes.

But the entire idea of the bill is counterproductive to its ultimate goal. If the objective is to reduce the amount of debt for students — a number of whom are low-income California residents who go to school during shorter sessions like the summer to take the remaining units they might need to graduate — why is the price of the units being raised?

Many California community college students are state residents who take classes at their local junior colleges to gain much-needed credits and eventually move up to the University of California or California State University systems. These same students might also be single parents who work full-time and attend community college because they cannot afford the cost of tuition at a major state university immediately after graduation from high school or any other secondary school.

Raising the unit price also affects current UC or CSU students who might be taking community college classes during the summer or winter break to get prerequisites out of the way before the normal school session starts again.

The problem at community colleges is still a difficult one, as the number of courses offered there has declined by 21 percent since 2008, according to a March 2013 report by the Public Policy Institute of California. Most of the courses offered during the summer or winter term are ones needed to transfer or obtain a degree. The state Assembly needs to come up with a better funding solution that helps reduce student debt without raising the unit price.

Community colleges serve as a stepping stone to attendance at a variety of different colleges, both in-state and out-of-state. By raising the price of units during shorter sessions, we could make the dream many low-income students and California residents have of one day attending a four-year institution impossible.

The state Assembly should have thought this one through.