Santa Monica College Board votes to postpone 2-tier tuition plan

Vanessa Romo/KPCC

Outside an emergency meeting called by the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees to discuss the two-tier pricing plan. These demonstrators say they support the decision to raise tuition on some courses, saying it's the only way to keep the doors open. A few days earlier, Protests against the plan ended in scuffles with police, including some protesters being pepper sprayed. April 6, 2012.

Following Tuesday’s pepper-spraying incident and a request from the Community Colleges chancellor, Santa Monica College trustees voted unanimously to freeze their controversial two-tier pricing system.

Before asking trustees to reverse their decision to implement a two-tier system for pricing classes over the summer, SMC President Chui Tsang recalled his own experience as an immigrant community college student who spoke very little English.

Tsang acknowledged he benefitted from a public system that offered a variety of readily available classes and was able to transfer to UC Berkeley in just two years. Given recent cuts and massive overcrowding, that path would be very difficult for today's students.

"I know how important it was to me and the cost I would have incurred. We want to make that option available to you," said Tsang. "We need to do what we can to allow you [to] finish your education so that you can have the same opportunity that I had."

Tsang said it’s unfortunate that students misunderstood the board's intentions in deciding to implement the two-tier pilot program. That, he said, would have added 50 classes over the summer.

Philosophy Professor Amber Katherine said that class cost increases are like abortion: Nobody's for it, but sometimes it's necessary.

But about 40 students spoke out against the plan, saying it would have made some of the most popular classes, like English and Math, more than four times more expensive than others at the school.

This time around, Tsang said, the Board would follow usual governance procedures and include all stakeholders before making a new decision.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that the Board had voted to approve freezing a two-tier tuition plan before the Board had voted.

This story has been updated.

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