Pierce College among top 10% cheapest schools in country

Recent information shows that community college fees in California are among the cheapest in the United States and Pierce is among these schools in the bottom 10% of per-year fees and costs, according to collegecost.ed.gov .

The costs are calculated based on fees charged per credit for the average load of classes a student would take in a year as well as other charges that are regularly applied to a majority of students, such as parking fees. As of the 2011-2012 academic year, Pierce is more than three times lower than the national average.

Joe Perret, Instructor of Computer Applications and Office Technologies, originally investigated this information and brought it to the attention of administrators at an Academic Senate meeting, March 10th.

“Other states have various systems. Some even have different tuition for different colleges within the state. In California the Student Fees are uniform, and we do not charge tuition,” Perret said later.

What students generally think of as “tuition” is actually part of the “student fees” community colleges charge, which are currently set at $47 per unit statewide. Governor Brown has recently proposed a new budget for education which could result in millions of dollars going to community colleges and other administrators are looking at ways to lower the fees across the board.

Perret, on the other hand, sees other ways to keep student costs at a minimum.

“A fellow Academic Senator brought up the idea for us to fight for lower student fees, a noble idea but one that we have very little sway over, since they are set by the state legislature,” he said. “My comments at the meeting were to try to refocus the discussion towards what we can effect, keeping textbook cost as low as possible for our students.”

Books and materials are also a way teachers and administrators have consistently attempted to keep costs down. Finding a single textbook for the whole curriculum, using it for many years to enable students to buy used copies, and informing students ahead of time all lower the net costs of taking a class.

“I am also working at the district’s budget committees to try to lower the textbook mark-up. The mark-up our college bookstores charged is mandated by a LA Community Colleges Board Rule. This rule was established many years ago when the textbook market was quite different,” Perret said.

Part of the “Student Experience” on Pierce campus is keeping the costs low and providing services to students in return for their investment.

“You have to remember, we faculty are parents too,” Perret said. “I just put two kids through college and still have one to go. So we ‘feel your pain’.”

For more information on the Governor Brown’s proposed budget increases, visit http://gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=18358. For more information on net costs and tuitions for colleges visit http://collegecost.ed.gov/catc/Default.aspx#.