Community colleges, which are “given fewer resources to educate students with the greatest needs,” face a Catch-22, writes Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation in The 2-Tier-Tuition Controversy in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
(Colleges can) raise prices, which creates new inequities, or don’t raise prices and perpetuate huge waiting lists for courses. In practical terms, as Nate Johnson of Postsecondary Analytics notes, when students eager for education are shut out of community-college courses, they tend to enroll in for-profit colleges, where they pay far more per credit than the proposed expensive tier at Santa Monica. Many students exit these for-profit institutions with few marketable skills.
“Charging different amounts for the same general-education courses at a community college would have set a bad precedent,” Kahlenberg writes. But it’s just the tip of a giant iceberg of inequalities in higher education.