Fees on the rise

Do not be alarmed by a possible enrollment-fee increase of at least $6 per unit sometime next year for California community colleges.

As of press time, there is no official news release about the fees returning $26 per unit-a price last paid in the summer of 2007-but there has been a speculation it will rise to $30 as soon as July 1 of next year.

Tuition has rocketed from $11 to $26 per unit since 2003. The increase was directly related to a “sharp decline” in enrollment according to a Los Angeles Community College District news release in 2006.

But is this the end of the escalation, or is it merely the beginning? When the enrollment fee is raised by 50 percent in July, the possibility of another increase could be unbearable.

The fee hike was suggested by the Legislative Analyst’s Office with the intent to lessen the budget cut for community colleges from $2.5 billion to $1 billion.

Pierce College is not out to get students with the tuition hikes. In fact, the college won’t benefit from it.

The money collected from a resident’s tuition fee is deducted from the amount of money the state gives Pierce, so though the state’s burden is lessened, Pierce will not make any money.

California’s community college system comprises 109 colleges, admitting more than 2.5 million students annually. 

Though California’s unit costs will be better than, for example, paying $325 to $455 per unit in New York, the increase will still turn many students away from enrolling.

For a full-time student, the annual tuition fee at Pierce is currently $502, without winter or summer intercessions. The country’s next cheapest tuition is in North Carolina for $1,326. New Yorkers attending community colleges may pay an average of $13,500.

California is the only state where college remained affordable, said the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education in a Dec. 3 report.

If this doesn’t console the student’s wallet, then he or she can apply for financial aid. There are currently five different grants and three loan programs available for any eligible student.

As of Nov. 17, about 10,000 of Pierce’s 23,000 students already qualified for the Board of Governors (BOG) fee waiver, which pays for the entire tuition cost for the 2008-09 school year. Also, 2,800 PELL grants worth more than $11 million were already awarded in the 2008-09 school year.

More than 13,000 students receiving financial aid, either one or a combination of grants, loans, work-study and scholarships, by Dec. 1.

However, not everybody can rely on financial aid, and lower enrollment means less contributed taxes when students with degrees start finding higher-paying jobs.

We urge the state to realize that education cannot be the whipping boy for very long, especially when so many students are already relying on government aid.

(Jessie Lomeli / Roundup)