By Marissa Valles
Enrollment fees stand in the way of low-income students furthering their education.
Community colleges like East Los Angeles College are often believed to be an affordable way for low-income students to further their education without having to pay much.
However, anyone who has tried to enroll in classes without financial aid knows this isn’t the case.
The enrollment fee is $46 a unit at ELAC. A student is considered full-time when they take 12 units.
To be a full-time student, it would cost roughly $552 depending on whether or not a student is charged additional fees.
This estimate also doesn’t take into account materials purchased for class.
Not all students have $552 lined up to spend. Many students also work in addition to going to school and have other financial obligations, such as caring for their family.
Students who receive financial aid usually have these enrollment fees waived, but not all students at ELAC are eligible for financial aid.
Students who don’t have U.S citizenship aren’t allowed to file for FAFSA, making them ineligible to receive financial aid.
If a student is ineligible for financial aid, they are expected to pay for all enrollment fees out-of-pocket.
Although, ELAC offers to waive tuition fees for undocumented students through AB 540, undocumented students still need to meet certain requirements to qualify.
During the 2021-2022 school year, enrollment fees acquired during the pandemic were forgiven and students with outstanding charges were allowed to enroll in classes.
Although this was a good start that impacted students who had outstanding charges, it was only done once and it hasn’t been done since.
The forgiveness of these fees brings to question if the amount of outstanding charges impacted the enrollment rate.
If so, why are enrollment fees even in place if they can abruptly impact enrollment rates?
Students shouldn’t be punished for not being able to pay enrollment fees.
Instead of forcing students to pay these enrollment fees or face not being able to enroll in classes, enrollment fees should be removed completely.
If enrollment fees must stay in place, there should be alternatives for students to be able to enroll in classes despite having outstanding fees.
One suggestion would be getting rid of deadlines that fees need to be paid by. These deadlines are what cause students to be considered ineligible to enroll in classes.
Getting rid of deadlines will allow students to pay on their own schedule and not stress about having to come up with money to pay off their balance.
Other alternatives include allowing payments to be made in installments and lowering how much students must pay per unit.
We can all agree that students shouldn’t have to pause, or even end their academic journeys because of outstanding fees.