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The idea of a two-tier tuition system with a $180-per-unit fee, as originally proposed at Santa Monica College for high-demand classes, feels like price gouging at the gas pump. However, no one is required to own a car and incur the expense of its operation and upkeep. Equally, no one is required to get a college degree and incur the expense that is involved.

If one feels definite about pursuing a college education then one must be willing to accept that it will come at a price that will, hopefully, pay-off down the road. A person wouldn’t refuse to go to work simply because the price of gas is too high.

The alternative is to embrace public transit, skip college and go straight into the work force. But how competitive would that make a prospective employee in the current economy?

There is no question that as the price of living in California goes up, so does the operating expenses in all industries as they attempt to stay afloat.

Chancellor of California Community Colleges, Jack Scott, said, “tragically, we as a state have failed to properly fund community colleges, and our economy will suffer as a result.”

The proposed higher tuition tier would apply only to a special session or set of classes that would be offered only once all regular sessions had filled up. That scenario only creates more dissent over the issue of which students get priority for registration.

The key to this issue is that frequent tuition hikes at public colleges and universities do nothing to improve the educational environment for students. While it is admirable that SMC is pushing for budget solutions that will help students continue on their educational path, the college has alienated many students and some state officials.
Students who protested the proposal were pepper sprayed. Also, Chancellor Scott has questions about the legality of such a tuition system.

Colleges and students should agree on a respectfully increased cost for all regular sessions of high demand transfer classes, with the extra funds going directly to funding all necessary classes sessions, not to the state general fund.

A system where students and colleges have more control over their money would incentivize everyone to perform, provide and deliver at a higher level. The success of a college would be based on the number and success of the students they serve. Budget cuts would be less of an issue and students would have an easier time transferring, justifying the respectfully higher cost per unit.

Tuition of $180 per unit is extreme, but ambitious students should recognize that SMC’s solution however wrong has opened the door for creative solutions that can change an obsolete state system.

Students must recognize the benefit of paying more per unit for classes that are essential to their educational progress, especially if they see a direct benefit in the quality of their education and on their campus.

If students want to be competitive in the current California job market they better have a car and an education. The expense may be more than students think they can handle, but if it were the difference between having a future or scraping by or a lifetime of success, which would they prefer?

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