By Veronica Hurtado
Increasing the cost of high demand classes by approximately 400 percent, while still offering the same classes at a regular price may be a fine solution for colleges to increase class offerings but it’s an unfair deal for students. Last week, Santa Monica College announced that due to budget cuts it would have to raise tuition from $36 to $46 per unit.
In addition, the school also plans to start a pilot pricing system for the summer. In this pilot, SMC will offer a two-tier class pricing, where the school will use its allocated government funds to offer the most classes it could and charge students $46 per unit.
Once classes start, it will look at high demand classes and open new sections at the cost of $200 per unit. Although this plan would enable SMC to alleviate class capacity issues by increasing class offerings and thus help students advance their education goals, such a plan goes against the foundation model of community colleges.
Community colleges are supposed to provide access to higher education to students at a low-cost. With a $200 hike in unit prices, students at SMC will have to pay $600 for a three-unit class on top of the cost of books, transportation and food.
This is an outrageous cost for students at the community college level to pay. Instead of SMC helping students, its hurting the same students it aims to help.
Some students cannot afford to pay the standard unit and need financial aid to help them. The hike in the unit price will only increase students’ needs to seek additional financial help. Those who do end-up receiving aid are competing for funds with students who are taking courses that cost significantly less.
This makes the playing field uneven for students who pay the regular unit price, as it may reduce funds and opportunities for students to take a class. This will cause students to prolong their stay at the community college level and limit their opportunity to take a much-needed class to transfer.
Hence, the implementation of this new two-tier system would see the students who could afford tuition prices succeed at a much faster pace than those who do not. The two-tier system solution is not a solution that benefits students, but a solution that robs students and the government’s money just to provide additional classes and services.