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Bill aims to offer more sections of high-demand classes at community colleges

Assembly Bill 955 would allow community college students to get ahead if they pay non-resident tuition.

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Sophomore finance major Javier Miranda has not yet had trouble getting classes at Long Beach City College but would be willing to pay more to get the classes he needs. Assembly Bill 955 would allow community colleges to offer summer and winter classes but charge out-of-state tuition for them.

Sophomore finance major Javier Miranda has not yet had trouble getting classes at Long Beach City College but would be willing to pay more to get the classes he needs. Assembly Bill 955 would allow community colleges to offer summer and winter classes but charge out-of-state tuition for them.

Todd Johnson

Todd Johnson

Sophomore finance major Javier Miranda has not yet had trouble getting classes at Long Beach City College but would be willing to pay more to get the classes he needs. Assembly Bill 955 would allow community colleges to offer summer and winter classes but charge out-of-state tuition for them.

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Community college students may soon have access to dozens of additional class sections — but at a much higher price than students are used to paying.

If Assembly Bill 955 passes, it will allow community college districts to establish an extension program to offer high-demand classes during winter and summer intersessions by charging non-resident tuition.

The price will vary depending on the college but could be as much as $290 per unit.

At least one campus would have to implement the program by January, and an additional five campuses would need to implement it by next summer, according to the bill’s text; however, the program would expire in six years.

Opponents of the bill say it creates a two-tier educational system, in which those who can afford to pay for the classes have priority and low-income students are given a sour deal.

Those in support, on the other hand, argue that with an $800-million decrease in state support since 2008 for the California Community College system, AB 955 would provide a means to help students graduate quicker.

According to Long Beach City College President Eloy Ortiz Oakley, a sponsor of the bill, AB 955 could help future transfer students find their way into the Cal State University system faster.

“With these budget cuts over the last several years, we’ve had to turn away thousands of students because we cannot offer the courses that they need,” he said. “This would really help students finish the courses they need so they can transfer or complete their [associate] degrees.”

Oakley said the bill would create a program similar to Cal State Long Beach’s College of Continuing and Professional Education, because it would allow students to enroll in courses at the full cost of instruction during the fall and summer. Giving a similar option to community college students, Oakley said, will allow them to graduate quicker and open seats up to others.

But Paul Feist, vice chancellor of communications for the CCC Chancellor’s Office, said that Proposition 30 passed for just that reason and that making students pay for additional courses is “bad public policy.”

“The voters spoke with the passing of Prop. 30,” he said. “We are adding back summer sessions, some of which had been cut dramatically. We don’t want to do it at the expense of creating a two-tier system.”

However, supporters like Oakley say that the bill serves as a temporary solution, not a substitute for state support.

“We believe that support from the state is the best solution for our students, but in the meantime this is a good solution,” Oakley said.

The bill stipulates that student-funded courses can be offered only if those courses are not available through state support. It also states that only a community college serving students up to or beyond its funding limit is eligible to participate in the program.

Eligible students could also offset the cost of courses with the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which refunds up to $2,500 in educational costs for low-income students, according to the bill’s text.

But the 40 percent of students who use the Board of Governor’s Fee Waiver, which allows low-income students to attend community colleges without paying tuition, will not be able to use the waiver to pay for classes, according to Feist.

The bill passed the state Assembly in May and has been sent to the Senate.

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