Students may face fee increase

Posted on March 16, 2010


Proposed state legislation may force community colleges to increase tuition to $40 per unit for the fall semester—a move some say could keep struggling students from attending Orange Coast College and other campuses.

“Students are going to pay more but they’re not going to see any increase in services at their community college,” said Community College League of California Director of Fiscal Policy Theresa Tena. “It’s just going to give the state some savings.”

The increase was proposed by the Legislative Analyst Office, a nonpartisan fiscal and policy advisor to California, in November 2008 to help alleviate California’s budget deficit.

LAO Director of Higher Education Steve Boilard said that students should be aware that there is a great possibility of fees rising.

“If I had to guess, and this would just be a guess, there will be some increase for student fees,” Boilard said. “It may not go all the way to $40 but there will be an increase.”

The proposed statewide increase would generate about $150 million a year that will go back to the community college system, according to Boilard. Community colleges will still receive support from the state.

Middle-income students may be affected the most by the increase, according to Dean of Enrollment Services Kristin Clark, because the neediest students are covered by a Board of Governors fee waiver.

“(The fee increase) means that more people will be applying for financial aid which will only take money from the government,” Patrick Gwozdziowski, a 20-year-old marketing major said. “And if people can’t afford to pay for (community college), then how can they afford to pay to attend a university?”

On the other hand, Boilard said that the extra funding will mean additional funds toward financial aid and students can find ways around the high costs with government money, like the BOG and the American Opportunity Tax Credit, where students can get refunds up to $2,000.

Fees will increase but the amount of services and classes offered will not be affected. The revenue increase is a wash, according to Clark.

But according to Boilard the extra money will go back to community colleges.

“Student fees will supplement whatever the state provides,” he said.

Clark and Tena said if fees do increase, the state should be required to apply the change early enough to give students and institutions enough time to plan and implement it.

“Sometimes they don’t pass (the budget) till September when the semester starts and then we have to go back to students and collect the difference,” Clark said. “We hate that.”

Boilard agreed that the late approval is a problem for administrators and students.

“That’s been a problem every year for the last decade and I sympathize,” Boilard said.

The state is supposed to approve next year’s budget by July 1, which is the beginning of the fiscal year, Clark said, but she doesn’t think it will happen by then. In previous years and less difficult circumstances, the legislature has approved the budget late, she said.

Some think that the increase will keep some students from attending school. In the past, a fee increase also meant an enrollment decrease, Clark and Vice President of Fiscal Affairs Lynne Riddle said.

“When you raise the fee that much you can expect a detrimental impact on student enrollment based on history,” Riddle said.

Student Sen. Alex Ackel said the fee increase may isolate some people on an economic scale but the Legislative Analyst Office would not have proposed a fee increase if they didn’t think it would help.

But Boilard said that he doesn’t think the increase will keep anyone from going to community college.

“Even if you go to $40 a unit California will still have the cheapest community colleges in the country,” Boilard said.

Tena said the increase should not be viewed through a vacuum because California community college students pay the lowest fees in the nation, even if fees increase. She stressed that the Legislative Analyst Office is nonpartisan and that the proposal was initially put forward in 2008 because of California’s environment at the time.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did not propose the fee increase, according to Tena, but did propose cuts to community colleges which the analyst office also recommended in its proposal to balance the state’s deficit.

Although the LAO is suggesting a hike in cost up to $40, Boilard said that state legislatures may not decide to raise it that high.

Tuition enough time to plan and implement it.

“Sometimes they don’t pass (the budget) till September when the semester starts and then we have to go back to students and collect the difference,” Clark said. “We hate that.”

Boilard agreed that the late approval is a problem for administrators and students.

“That’s been a problem every year for the last decade and I sympathize,” Boilard said.

The state is supposed to approve the budget by July 1, which is the beginning of the fiscal year, Clark said, but she doesn’t think it will happen by then. In previous years the state approved the budget late in less difficult circumstances, she said.

Fees will increase but the amount of services and classes offered will not be affected. The revenue increase is a wash, according to Clark.

Some think that the increase will keep some students from attending school. In the past, a fee increase also meant an enrollment decrease, Clark and Vice President of Fiscal Affairs Lynne Riddle said.

“When you raise the fee that much you can expect a detrimental impact on student enrollment based on history,” Riddle said.

Student Sen. Alex Ackel said the fee increase may isolate some people on an economic scale but the Legislative Analyst Office would not have proposed a fee increase if they didn’t think it would help.

But Boilard said that he doesn’t think the increase will keep anyone from going to community college.

“Even if you go to $40 a unit California will still have the cheapest community colleges in the country,” Boilard said.

Tena said the increase should not be viewed through a vacuum because California community college students pay the lowest fees in the nation, even if fees increase. She stressed that the Legislative Analyst Office is nonpartisan and that the proposal was initially put forward in 2008 because of California’s environment at the time.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did not propose the fee increase, according to Tena, but did propose cuts to community colleges which the analyst office also recommended in its proposal to balance the state’s deficit.

Although the LAO is suggesting a hike in cost up to $40, Boilard said that state legislatures may not decide to raise it that high.

Originally published in the Coast Report, Orange Coast College’s student-run newspaper.

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