Santa Monica College’s (SMC) plan of implementing a two-tier course pricing system goes against the mission statements of many community colleges such as Pierce, to provide an affordable education within means.
Under the new plan, SMC would offer high-demand classes at $200 a unit while other classes would cost $46 by the summer. SMC would offer these higher-priced classes after state-funded classes fill up, which they inevitably do at the popular school, ranked number one in transfers to the UC system, USC, and Loyola Marymount University.
Administrators at SMC argue that the extra fees attached to popular classes will keep afloat transfer-requirement classes, but this solution is ironic. These classes with extra fees are in high-demand because they’re needed to transfer. An extra fee will only turn away more students and make it much harder to transfer.
SMC has tried to assuage this worry by saying that students will be able to use their existing financial aid, like Cal Grants, to pay for these classes. Donors have also given $250,000 to be used for scholarships for low-income students to afford these classes.
This just further complicates an already complicated system. Many students already use their financial aid to pay for the current fees and the ever-increasing cost of books, and having to ration some of that money off to increasing fees will only become more of a strain.
What’s more, if donors are able to give $250,000 just so students can afford more expensive classes, then why not funnel that money directly to the source of the problem? Why not use that money to make more in-demand classes available at less cost?
Pierce College has no plans to implement a similar two-tier system, according to Bruce Rosky, Pierce College associative vice president. However, the move by SMC to offer classes at a disproportionately increased cost sets a precedent for other colleges.
The blame does not fall entirely on SMC though. The college argues that these higher fees are in response to the massive cutbacks by the state to education. This year, the college had to contend with a $10 million loss in state funding.
The adoption of a two-tier pricing system is emblematic of a much larger problem. Both the state and the community college system must realize that the education system is at the service of the students first, not the other way around.
Community Colleges are the only option for working class students that strive for an education and better future.
This two-tier pricing system does not solve any problems, it only overlooks them.