For years now, administrators at the community college here have been inundated with woeful tales from students unable to register for the courses they need. Classes they want for essential job training or to fulfill requirements to transfer to four-year universities fill up within hours. Hundreds of students resort to crying and begging to enroll in a class, lining up at the doors of instructors and academic counselors.
Now, though, Santa Monica College is about to try something novel. This summer it will offer some courses for a higher price, so that students who are eager to get into a particular class can do so if they pay more.
I realise that they're trying to 1) survive financially and 2) provide a way to limit the number of people who take the really popular classes so they're not so impossible to get into, but this just seems, well, wrong, jacking up the prices for students who are already beleaguered by debt and putting a monetary worth on some subjects or classes over others. On the other hand, it's kind of still a bargain; for example our local community college, Bluegrass Community & Technical College, charges $130-135 per credit hour for all classes for in-state students, for comparison. So you could look at it as they've had it impossibly cheap and they're going to have to suck it up. But why not just increase the amount for all classes, treating them equally, especially if their costs are just being covered by the higher figure, as the article states? Why a two-tiered system? It sounds like historically they haven't charged enough (California colleges used to be free to in-state residents, and then were very cheap for years compared to other places, which I think is wonderful, but it only works if the state is funding it correctly), and now they're trying to avoid covering costs completely by jacking it up overall to people who are used to paying a little. But I don't really like the idea of having to pay substantially more for a class when the others are so much cheaper, and there might be a haves vs. have-not problem, even with some scholarships. If the class you absolutely need to graduate or transfer is expensive, that might be a hardship.
Oh, and I really liked this comment:
Lorak G. Selrak, Vancouver
Interesting that the article neglects to mention which courses are in demand. If tradition holds true business, accounting, computers, health care and other "practical" courses will be the ones in demand. "Impractical" courses in the humanities will still be cheap because no one really wants to study them. Students take note: the reason the courses are more expensive is that they will teach you less. There is an inverse relationship between what the market wants in the short term and what you will learn from (and therefore what will benefit your life and career.) Humanities courses are cheap because the education they will provide you is priceless.