This semester Long Beach City College (LBCC) introduced a two-tiered pricing plan to accommodate for impacted or high-demand classes. Instead of classes costing $46 per unit, under AB 955 LBCC students reportedly could be paying up to $225 per unit in three-unit classes over the five-year experiment.
Creating a division between students who can and can’t afford the higher cost classes is not only unfair, but also goes against the mission of community colleges to provide a more accessible and affordable higher education.
The two-tiered pricing plan is taking steps in the wrong direction that continue to work against the California Master Plan for Higher Education model, which originally created a tuition-free community college system. The California Community Colleges System (CCCS), which serves 2.4 million students across 112 campuses, will be forced to continually turn away students if systems like these continue to be implemented.
“California’s Community Colleges have always succeeded on the basis of equal and affordable opportunity,” said president of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges Dean Murakami, in a media release. “Establishing a toll-lane for the economically privileged … runs counter to the very purpose of these institutions. That is the reason the vast majority of faculty, students, staff and the State Chancellor opposed this measure.”
With the approval of AB 955 came much critical response from students and staff at LBCC. CCCS Chancellor Brice W. Harris dubbed the legislation “horrible” public policy. While budget cuts to all public universities is a common problem in California, there are still ways community colleges can remain affordable. It would be more proactive to slightly raise overall unit prices than outlandishly charge for higher demand classes.
This is because AB 955 gives back a third of the revenue from the high-demand classes back to the school’s need-based financial aid funds. It does not make sense for a student to pay upwards of $600 for a class and then be refunded slightly through scholarship. If there were multiple tiers that took into consideration the student’s financial situation, that would be a more fitting and streamlined process.
Money aside, the purpose of this bill is to prevent students from having to spend extra time in community college to get the high-demand classes they need to transfer or graduate. It should be the burden of the college, not the student, to provide an adequate number of seats and sections.
With the millions of students being served by CCCS, it is crucial that it remains accessible for students from any background or financial situation. The state government must move away from the privatization of public education and toward the original tuition-free plan, or at the very least keep unit fees as low as possible.