Despite the disagreements on campus regarding PCC’s budget, the administration, students and faculty agreed on Monday that the latest development in the budget cut saga is one that will hurt students, not help them.California Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 70 on Thursday, a bill that will raise community college tuition fees from $26 per unit to $36, effective July 1.
Roger Marheine, president of the PCC Faculty Association and Faculty Association of California Community College (FACCC) board member, expressed a strong view of the increase.
“I personally am absolutely opposed to any fee increase. and am pleased to note that [the FACCC] went on record as opposing the fee increases,” he said in an e-mail on Monday. “Fee increases will reduce the access for students statewide and will cause even more hardship on students who already face section cuts.”
As for those who the fee increase directly affects, Associated Students President Jamie Hammond believes that accepting the fee is the best way to deal with it, even though it may be unfair.
“I feel it’s better for us to pay that fee and not suffer as many cuts than to have to pay a fee and suffer cuts anyway,” she said. “The fee increase is meant to bring us closer [to closing the deficit] but it’s unfortunate that the burden has to go to the students who have the least amount of money.”
According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the fee increase “could benefit the [California Community College] system and protect affordability and access for financially needy and non-needy students.”
In the analysis of the proposal, the Board of Governors’ (BOG) fee waiver is said to help preserve affordability of the community college system due to its “relatively high income cut-off.” Because of this, LAO’s website says the fees create no additional out-of-pocket expense for students who are struggling financially, since these students qualify regardless of the increase in fees.
LAO also argues that the federal government will help to ease financial strain on students by saying that a “vast majority” of students who do not qualify for the BOG fee waiver qualify for a number of other federal assistance programs.
“The severe cuts to education that have recently been debated and protested are no longer theory but a fact,” said PCC President Mark Rocha in a statement on Monday. “This new budget bill confirms that the minimum cut to PCC’s budget next year will be approximately $5 million.
“The PCC trustees and administration are strongly opposed to the budget cuts and the increase in student fees,” he continued. “The position of the Board and the administration is that higher education is an investment not an expense.”
Though administrators at PCC are aware of LAO’s argument, Rocha says the school is fighting against the fees while ensuring students are able to continue their education.
“While PCC will continue to oppose the student fee increase, we will also take vigorous actions to ensure that students receive financial aid to continue their educations,” said Rocha. “We are planning to put more resources into our financial aid operation so that all students can take full advantage of the many grant and scholarship programs.
“We stand united with students, staff and faculty to make the case that investment in public higher education has always been and always will be the key to economic growth and prosperity,” Rocha said.
Though the situation seems bleak for students, Hammond is optimistic.
“I try to look at things like a cloud with silver lining,” said Hammond. “When students see that extra money on their bill, they’re going to be more inclined to pay attention to what the Legislature is doing. Hopefully it increases awareness.
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