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Two Tiered Community College Tuitions

April 2, 2012

The March 30, 2012 NYTimes featured an article on Santa Monica (CA) Junior College’s plan to charge differential rates for students. Students who pay a higher rate to move to the head of the line for registration in courses that are most desirable. The article sidesteps the primary issues that lead to this phenomenon: increases in the number of students requiring remedial courses and decreases in ANY kind of government support.

The article reports that:

While the college is still ironing out the details, it expects to offer about 200 courses at the higher tuition price, in addition to hundreds of regularly priced courses. College officials say that nearly every class is filled to capacity and that they are asking departments to choose which courses have the highest demand so they can offer more of those — typically basic courses in English, writing, math and science. (emphasis added)

I remain convinced that Community Colleges could solve this problem of overload in remedial courses by mandating all students to take their entry tests as sophomores so any students who believe they might attend a community college would be able to schedule FREE remedial courses while they are in high school. To encourage students to take those courses, the junior colleges could simultaneously announce that three years hence they would charge a premium for enrollment in remedial courses.

The article glances over the question of the impact of State and Federal budget cuts, though it does report:

A financial squeeze since the recession led first to a reduction of federal and then state financing for colleges and universities. Since 2008, California’s community college system has lost $809 million in state aid, including $564 million in the most recent budget, even as more students than ever before try to enroll.

It is maddening to read that both candidates value community colleges, but both also see this as a STATE problem and not a Federal problem. But here’s the fiscal reality: as the federal government shifts more and more costs and responsibilities to the States the States budgets get more and more stressed and the first thing they cut is funding for colleges reasoning that students should bear the costs and that poor students can qualify for loans.

So two vicious circles are forcing college prices higher: by admitting unprepared students colleges add to those students’ total costs for post secondary education and by slashing budgets States and the federal government are adding to those same students’ costs.

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