Santa Monica College offers an alternative

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By Javier Cabrera / Editor in Chief

Fishing for money (Paul Ledesma / Editor’s Assistant)

By Javier Cabrera / Editor in Chief

The administration at Santa Monica College has developed a method to tackle its budget cuts by announcing it will charge $200 per unit for in-demand classes such as English and math.

Students, who cannot get into the state-fund English and math classes, will have the option to enroll into designated English and math classes.

The state funded classes will cost students $46 per unit while the designated classes will cost $200 per unit starting in the summer session.

Officials at Santa Monica College said the college will keep the classes if the idea is successful, according to the Los Angeles Times, and students at other community colleges are wondering if their college might go the route Santa Monica has gone.

“Santa Monica College is doing its best to remedy a growing problem, that is, a combination of diminishing class offerings and a growing student population,” said Nick Bygon, student trustee of Riverside Community College District. “The result of the problem is: students don’t get the classes they need.”

Bygon said he appreciates the college’s effort to be innovative and accommodate all of its students, but he thinks the college is setting a bad precedent.

Bygon said Santa Monica College is changing the fabric of what a community college should be, which is: an all-access institution into a two-tier system.

“The effect of such a radical reform of a public institution is that, while it might relieve some of the budget shortfall, it corners the problem on top of those individuals already standing on the margins, while giving a way out for those who can afford to pay,” he said.

“Is that really what we want our college to offer, or our country?” Bygon said. “Having such a precedent leaves the door open for other public institutions to start charging a pro-rated fee to those who can pay to also make up for their budget shortfalls.”

While many students side with Bygon, there are some other students that do not think Santa Monica College’s idea is bad.

“If it is something that is legal and is something available that doesn’t go against (education) code, it might be an option,” said Rikki Hix, vice president of Associated Students of RCC. “It is saying that on top of the classes already, if you want a class, you have to pay for it.”

Hix said although students might not able to afford the $200 per unit classes, the idea can help get RCC out of the hole.

“There is a lot of people who cannot afford (the classes), however, if we did that than it will help us get out, and it still a whole lot cheaper than paying $15,000 or $25,000 to go to a UC or Cal State,” she said. “It might be something that we will have to look at if it is considered legal and if it is not breaking any laws.”

Ajené Wilcoxson, an associate of Business Administration, said he hopes Santa Monica College’s idea of the $200 per unit classes, is the last thing RCC attempts to do.

“That is a hard, hard situation-it really is-$200 a unit-most students cannot afford to buy their textbook until two weeks after the class starts; most even struggle to even get on campus every single day; most students are not working, they are relying on financial aid,” he said.

Wilcoxson said if RCC had to do something like what Santa Monica did than he will understand what has to be done.

“The institution has to continue to offer classes and has to continue to sustain itself,” he said. “But I hope it is on the backside of a last alternative.”

Cynthia Azari, president of RCC, said she had mixed feelings about Santa Monica College’s decision.

“While I understand that it will provide additional classes, I am very concerned because that has not been approved by the state,” she said.

Although the plan provides classes and has not been approved by the state, Azari said she does not think the classes will be covered by any financial aid.

“I am not sure students will get financial aid for that, because it is coming under their contract umbrella,” she said.

Azari said those classes won’t count by the state and wont help students.

“It is not counted in the full-time equivalent students funded forms,” she said. “It is not funded by the state, but on the other hand the BOG waivers won’t apply, financial aid won’t apply and Cal grants.”

Azari said the plan will also cause a rip between students.

“What happens is you have a two tier system: you have the people who are wealthy and could afford anything and they take those classes,” she said. “And you got the students who are the regular students, who are having to pay on their own or get financial aid, BOG waiver or Cal grant and then they are the ones in the other classes fighting for them.”

Azari said many may disagree with her because the idea makes classes but causes a split.

“I am not sure that it is the best approach,” she said.

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