Patt Morrison For April 4, 2012

Two-tiered class fee structure outrages students at Santa Monica College

Should Santa Monica College be able to charge more for popular classes or is that unfair to students?

Facing cuts of $11 million, Santa Monica College decided on a radical option: start a non-profit foundation that could offer more high-demand classes like English and math, but at a cost of $200 a unit compared to $36. Students who need those classes to graduate and don't get into the over-capacity, state-funded classes can sign up for the more expensive classes to graduate on time.

"We are very, very concerned about the students who can't get in," said Jack Scott, chancellor of California Community Colleges. "We are also concerned about this practice which, of course, could change, in some ways, the mission of community colleges of being open to one and all."

The “two-tiered” system, set to start this summer, has been met by protest. Opponents say it privatizes what is supposed to be a publicly-funded education and lets wealthier students get ahead more quickly.

Around 100 students showed up to protest the decision at the college's Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, where at least one member of the Santa Monica College police used pepper spray to break up the crowd.

WEIGH IN:

Should higher education be fast-tracked by price, like toll lanes on a freeway? Would the program free up more classroom seats in the cheaper option classes? Is the college administration overlooking a less contentious solution?

Guests:

Jack Scott, chancellor of California Community Colleges

Cameron Espinoza, director of student outreach for the Associated Students at Santa Monica College

Nancy Shulock, executive director of the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy, at California State University, Sacramento


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