Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 955 into law, which would allow schools to charge a higher price for in-demand classes during the winter and summer sessions on October 11.
Right now the California community colleges charge $46 per unit for classes. The new law allows for six community colleges to charge nearly $200 per unit as part of a trial program.
As of now the pilot program has been offered to Long Beach City College, Pasadena City College, Oxnard College, and three others. Those schools will have to decide if they want to go to this tiered system.
The reasoning behind this decision was that it would expand winter and summer sessions that have been rolled back in recent years. Course offerings overall have declined by 21percent since 2008.
The hope is that this program would allow students to get the courses they need to graduate.
But the question remains, which students will this help?
There is no doubt that some students will see this as a big break, as students always complain about the difficulty of getting their classes each semester. However this also opens the door to further expansion.
Even though $46 per unit is expensive to many students, Fullerton College can only stay open because the state government subsidizes those classes.
As the state has cut more and more from the community college budget, the schools have been forced to cut more classes. This program is essentially making students subsidize the schools course offerings.
If this program is successful in the summer and winter inter-sessions, what is to stop expansion into the spring and fall? If that were to happen, California community colleges will be separated into two groups; the ones that can afford the classes they need and the ones that are left scrapping for it.
The proponents of the program argue that there is already a two-tiered system in place on community college campuses, between the students that cannot afford to wait another semester for classes to open up and the ones who can. But that ignores the fact that those students may not be able to afford $200 per unit.
This program also risks excluding any students on financial aid. Students getting aid will most likely not be able to take these classes without a huge increase to financial aid packages.
Many students have been having a harder time paying for the last increase in course prices. This is especially rough at a time when jobs are harder to come by for non-college graduates. The rate of unemployment for non-college graduates is almost double that of college graduates.
Part of the community college experience has traditionally been a place where people from many different backgrounds and socio-economic classes can attend without racking up tens of thousands of dollars in loans.