If not higher tuition, then what?

To appease angry students, Santa Monica College has suspended plans to charge four times more for quick access to high-demand classes. But demand still exceeds supply of classroom seats and that means some other form of rationing, write Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

What happens if you don’t respond to excess demand by raising the price? . . . We can make people wait in line or we can develop a more systematic method of choosing among eager consumers. That might be through some evidence-based method for choosing those who either need the product most or have characteristics making them most likely to use it well. Or it might be through a lottery of some sort.

…We could fund the institutions better so they could offer enough sections of the necessary courses. We could raise the price for all courses for all students. Or we can ration. But just saying no to a price hike doesn’t settle the question: some process will determine who will get the sought after prize, and you need to figure out what that process will be.

Despite the sharp rise in tuition at California’s community colleges, students still pay less than community college students elsewhere. And they get less in terms of access to classes, paying in time instead of money.

Differential tuition isn’t new at community colleges, writes Paul Fain in Inside Higher Ed. However, colleges typically charge more only for special programs outside the core mission or for courses that cost more to teach, such as engineering or nursing courses that require specialized equipment and small class sizes.

Pima Community College, a large institution in Arizona, this spring introduced differential tuition for high-cost offerings like veterinary technology and dental hygiene. The college studied the cost of delivery for disciplines over four years, according to college officials. To be picked for differential rates, which are 30 or 40 percent higher than standard tuition, courses needed to exceed the median cost for at least two consecutive years.

Some colleges also charge more for online courses, hoping to create a cash cow.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON April 11, 2012

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Greater state support, that’s the solution. Community colleges in California used to be free for students. That system worked. This system doesn’t.

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