CALIFORNIA—Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Thursday, October 10, allowing some California community colleges to offer shorter summer and winter session classes at a higher price.
“I am signing AB 955 which establishes a voluntary pilot program allowing a handful of California community colleges to offer [a] high-demand course during the summer and winter intersessions,” Brown said in a statement. “This seems like a reasonable experiment. Why deny these campuses the opportunity to offer students access and financial assistance to courses not otherwise available,” he added.
The bill now allows six specific colleges to charge students that enroll during these special sessions a higher fee of $200 per unit as opposed to the state-subsidized fee of $46 per unit.
Williams said he created the legislation in response to the course reductions due to bottlenecks that came as a result of the Proposition 30 financial cutbacks in the community college system.
“We want people to be able to have the chance to take the subsidized courses, but if they can’t get in, we want to provide them a fallback to be able to get those classes they need to make progress and to transfer instead of just sitting around in school a whole ”˜nother year when they are just wasting their time,” Williams said in a statement.
The original aim of the bill was to include all 112 community colleges, but was amended to include only six due to opposition to the bill. The following six colleges are included the legislation: College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, Long Beach City College, Oxnard College, Pasadena City College and Solano Community College in Fairfield.
Some of the opposition came from community college districts, students and faculty groups who lobbied for the governor to veto the bill saying it would make a public education available to only those who could afford it.
"The state would be shifting the burden for funding access from the state general fund to the backs of students," Vincent Stewart, the community college's system's vice chancellor for governmental relations, said in a statement. "Creating a pay-to-play fee structure, where students who have greater wealth and means can get on a fast track is patently unfair."
According to the bill, financial aid must be provided to low-income students who choose to take one of the extensions courses as part of the pilot program.
“I am grateful that the governor has the vision to give this pilot program a chance,” Williams said.
The bill is set to go into effect in January 2014 with at least one of the colleges implementing the program, with the rest following by July 1, 2014, according to the bill.
Long Beach City College (LBCC) has announced plans to start the program immediately with a 5-year test period, according to reports. LBCC Superintendent-President Eloy Oakley issued a statement calling AB 955 a step in the right direction and one small piece of the solution.
“AB 955 is an innovative and progressive approach in addressing the reduced access caused by years of funding cuts to California Community Colleges,” Oakley said. “Long Beach City College is dedicated to implementing AB 955 and offering intersession courses needed by our students,” he added.
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