California community colleges could add courses in short summer and winter sessions — if students pay more, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. A bill that passed the Assembly this week would let colleges charge non-resident rates — $200 per unit — for new classes instead of the usual fee of $46 per unit.
Students who pay more for a high-demand class would free up spaces for other students during the regular semester, Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, said. ”We must recognize the reality that the existing system is not meeting students’ needs,” he said.
The Faculty Association of California Community Colleges and several community college districts opposed the bill, saying it’s unfair to low-income students.
“If you fear a two-tiered system, I’ve got to wake you up: It’s already here,” Williams said. “There’s one tier that can get in and one tier that is locked out.”
After years of cutbacks, two-thirds of community colleges are offering more courses this summer, according to the chancellor’s office. Last summer, enrollment and course offerings hit the lowest level in 15 years, but the passage of a state sales tax increase provided an extra $210 million to community colleges.
In recent years, the state’s community colleges have been hit by $1.5 billion in funding cuts and turned away 600,000 students, according to a report published in March.
The shortage of community college seats “could keep 2.5 million Californians out of the system over the next 10 years,” reports KPBS. Latinos, who are the most likely to attend community colleges, will be hit hard, said Deborah Santiago, who heads research for Excelencia in Education. “Community colleges are, from a sticker price perspective, more affordable and, because they are in the communities where these students live, therefore accessible,” she said.
Last year’s changes to Pell Grants are “taking a heavy toll on community colleges and their students, depressing enrollments and squeezing the pocketbooks of thousands of students, if not pushing them out of the classroom altogether,” writes Paul Bradley on Community College Week.
Some propose requiring Pell recipients to earn more credits and capping remedial courses, making it harder for students to complete a certificate or degree.
Turner Gray, a 36-year-old freshman at Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York, is a single mother with two children who’s been unemployed for two years. She hopes to earn a business administration degree. But it will take longer because Pell no longer covers summer courses.
Excluding summer courses from the Pell Grant program was just one of the changes approved by Congress last June as it scrambled to plug a $1.3 billion gap in the Pell program, which has been growing for more than a decade as college enrollments have soared. The cost of the Pell Grant program doubled in cost to $36.5 billion in the four years ending in 2010, gobbling up an ever-growing share of discretionary funding of the U.S. Department of Education.
There were 19.4 million applicants for the grants last year, compared with 9.5 million a decade earlier. The changes enacted by Congress excluded about 100,000 students nationwide from the program.
At Montgomery County Community College in suburban Philadelphia, 10 percent of Pell recipients received less money or no grant at all, estimated college President Karen A. Stout. Many were enrolled in summer nursing courses designed to help students earn their degrees sooner. “Not only have the changes hurt students, but they have hurt the overall goal of college completion,” she said.
Under new eligibility limits, students can receive Pell aid for 12 semesters, down from 18. “The Pell Grant clock starts ticking while they are taking developmental classes that won’t count toward a college degree,” writes Bradley.
The change also could hurt students who have trouble transferring credits from a community college to a four-year college or university
To qualify for the maximum grant, students must come from families with an annual income of $23,000 or less, down from the previous level of $32,000.
The Pell changes resulted in lower enrollment at nearly all Mississippi and Alabama community colleges, concluded Steven G. Katsinas, director of the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama. He projected larger enrollment declines when eligibility limits kick in.
While most community college students say they want to transfer to a four-year institution, transfer works in two directions, concludes a new National Student Clearinghouse report: Within six years, 14.4 percent of first-time students who started at a four-year institution in the fall of 2005 had enrolled at a two-year institution in the regular school year. More than half of reverse transfer students didn’t return to a four-year college or university. By the end of the six-year study period, two-thirds of reverse transfer students hadn’t earned a bachelor’s degree and were not enrolled in a four-year college or university. About half had dropped out, while the rest had earned a community college credential or were still enrolled at community college.
While reverse transfer to a community college isn’t a good route to a bachelor’s degree, four-year students who enroll in summer classes at a community college are more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree, reports Inside Higher Ed. “About 78 percent of students at four-year institutions who enrolled in a community college for a summer session and then returned to their original institution successfully earned a degree, according to the report, substantially outpacing the 58 percent graduation rate of those who never attended a community college.”
Nearly two-thirds of California community college districts have cut summer classes by 50 percent or more, reports the Los Angeles Times.
“This will be the most severe summer we’ve faced in terms of course offerings,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott. “We have many four-year students who come back home and want to pick up a course or two in the summer and they can’t. There are a lot of individuals out of work who would like to have some training in the summer and can’t. We have great demand but inadequate supply.”
“It’s a great tragedy in California that we are delaying education for students because they can’t get the classes they need,” Scott said.
Mt. San Jacinto College in Riverside County, which offered 97 for-credit classes last summer, is down to eight this summer.
William Diaz, a community-college chemistry major, couldn’t get into a prerequisite chemistry class at any of the Los Angeles community college district’s nine campuses. Without the class, he’ll have to wait an extra year to transfer to Cal State Northridge.
Even though the seven-hour class with a lab session at East Los Angeles City College is full and makes for a difficult commute from his home in South Los Angeles, he plan to show up on July 5, the first day.
“I know there’s got to be some students who will drop, so I’ve come up with a whole plan to bring my own seat, like a beach chair, and just sit there and talk to the teacher. It’s an important class, and I feel like I’m fighting against the clock,” said Diaz, 22, who has a 3-year-old son and works as a teaching assistant at the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, a high school in downtown Los Angeles.
Students who fear more tuition hikes are trying to complete as much coursework as possible.