California’s very low community college fees could be going up, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Fees are only $1,380 a year — less than half the national average — and at least 40 percent of California students don’t pay anything.
The 112-college system’s governing board is limiting generous fee waivers. Currently, a student from a family of four earning up to $90,000 would qualify.
The board is considering requiring students with fee waivers to maintain at least a C-average over two consecutive terms and to show adequate progress by taking at least half of their courses for credit.
Under the change, which exempts the disadvantaged and would take effect in Fall 2016, as many as 48,479 recipients could lose their fee waivers, said Linda Michalowski, vice chancellor for student services and special programs.
“For a student to enroll and do poorly academically, drop out, come back and do poorly, that does not correlate with student success, yet our policy on the fee waiver has said it doesn’t matter; you can fail and fail and fail and come back and we will support you again,” Michalowski said. “That doesn’t benefit anybody.”
Many say the shift doesn’t go far enough. Community college students still can’t get the courses they need, says Steve Boilard, who directs the Center for California Studies at Sacramento State.
As state funding declined by $1.5 billion over four years, lawmakers raised fees three times, to the current price of $46 per unit. But nearly all the anticipated revenue was eaten up by the waivers and colleges ended up cutting courses and enrollment anyway, said Boilard, who thinks the state needs to look hard at further restricting waivers and substantially raising the admission price.
“The community college system is supposed to be affordable for all, but we have shot ourselves in the foot by trying to achieve that through low tuition,” he said.
“There is a lot of room to raise more revenue and still be below the national average in terms of fees,” said Long Beach City College President-Chancellor Elroy Oakley. If the fees were higher, students could still access federal aid and “would be paying nothing more, and then that money would be going back into the institutions, which is, frankly, what 49 other states in the nation do,” he said.
“We are turning people away from college who want to come,” said Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education President David Longanecker. “What we have now is a low-cost pricing scheme that is starving the system and doesn’t make sense in the 21st Century.”