Santa Monica City College‘s plan to charge higher prices for high-demand English and math classes was abandoned in the face of protests — and the state community college chancellor’s warning that the idea probably was illegal. But now a bill in the California Legislature would legalize tw0-tier pricing for courses that cost more to deliver, reports Inside Higher Ed.
State Sen. Roderick D. Wright has introduced legislation that would let community college boards charge more for high-cost technical education or job training classes, making those classes self-supporting.
“This bill would allow community college districts to charge students for the actual costs of the courses,” according to the legislation, including the cost of instruction, equipment and supplies, student services and instructional support.
Wright hopes to expand community colleges’ capacity so they can compete for students with for-profit colleges, said Stan DiOrio, Wright’s legislative director. A Democrat, Wright represents a low-income and working-class area in south Los Angeles where for-profit colleges are recruiting minority students, often for certificate programs to train security guards, chefs and bookkeepers.
California has rejecting pricing differentials before, but this time the pressure is much greater, notes Inside Higher Ed.
The state’s 112 community colleges have been walloped by deep budget cuts, which have forced them to turn away hundreds of thousands of students — an estimated 200,000 this year alone. And an additional $300 million cut looms if the state’s voters don’t pass a tax hike this fall.
Tuition levels at the colleges, which serve 2.6 million students, will rise to $46 from $36 this summer. But even after the increase, California’s community colleges will charge less than half the national average in tuition and fees.
That’s a source of pride in a state with a deep commitment to cheap, open-access public higher education.
But it means that students pay in time wasted when they can’t get into critical classes to complete a degree or transfer. And many decide it’s cheaper to earn a for-profit certificate or degree quickly, even though the cost is much higher.
Still, differential tuition is very, very controversial in the state. Very.