California can “make community college more affordable by raising student fees,” editorializes the Los Angeles Times.
The state’s community colleges could have more than doubled its take of federal stimulus money by raising fees $1 from $26 a unit to $27, The Times writes. The average full-time student would have paid only $30 more per year, while the colleges would have netted an extra $12.5 million.
A $10-a-unit increase would bring in $125 million more a year, and the state would still have the least expensive community colleges in the nation.
That $10 increase, or about $300 a year, would in fact save students money. Because of budget cuts, students are competing for seats in the classes they need for a vocational certificate or to move on to a four-year school. Many cannot get into enough classes to be considered full time, which means they don’t qualify for student health insurance. Worse, they must spend an extra semester or even a year to earn the credits needed for a degree, certificate or transfer. One extra semester of living expenses costs a lot more than $300.
Colleges should spend the extra money to offer more sections of the classes students need and to offer fee waivers to needy students, the Times proposes. Students who aren’t poor enough to qualify for a waiver will be able to collect a federal tuition tax credit that pays for up to $2,000 a year in fees and textbooks.
Some California students are enrolling in high-cost for-profit colleges to get the classes their community colleges don’t have the funding to provide. Paying higher community college fees in exchange for getting the classes they need to complete a degree would be an excellent deal, even without the federal tax credit.