Sen. Marty Block took the lead in a hearing this week to delve into the possibility of doing away with tuition at California’s community colleges.
“As a marketing tool, free can’t be beat,” said Block, pointing out that while the California system is one of the most affordable in the nation, many high school graduates have a “mental roadblock” when it comes to thinking about college affordability.
About two-thirds of California’s more than 1 million full-time community college students currently have their fees waived through existing aid programs, leaving only about 400,000 who pay for their education. Still, that accounts for more than $400 million annually in fees. The system also has more than 1 million part-time students. Overall, it currently costs about $46 per unit for those paying their way, or about $1,200 in tuition and fees for the year.
But additional costs – including housing – can bump that all the way up to $18,000 per year for students not living with family, according to testimony at the hearing.
Block said that increasing community college enrollment is critical for California’s economy (a position he’s long argued on this issue and others involving education), which is projected to have a shortage of skilled workers in coming years.
But before he introduces any legislation in California, he says he wants to take the time to meet with community college chancellors, including San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance Carroll, and other education leaders to get their input. Tuition affordability legislation has already been introduced in the Assembly.
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The idea that the "high cost" of community college tuition deters student attendance is nonsense. As the article points out, 2/3 of the students don't pay any tuition NOW. No one who "can't afford" community college tuition is denied an education.
Indeed, ANY student get get this exemption by lying on a simple form. Community colleges have zero incentive to check the financial status of such students -- there is little or no auditing. Moreover, it's easy for a student from another state to come to CA and qualify for in-state CC tuition -- or even free tuition by filling out the laughably easy "hardship form."
I well remember the time when CA community college was "free." For 30 years, I was a guest speaker in government and economics classes.
My ONE criteria I insisted on for my presentations was that I speak in the first 6 weeks of the class. That's because by the end of the semester 40% of the students had dropped the class. After all, they had no skin in the game.
This waste is actually rational student behavior, as any decent economics professor will tell you. When a good or service is free, it is not valued by the recipients, and consequentially is over-utilized.
Even with today's California CC tuition (easily the lowest in the nation), most of the cost is picked up by the taxpayer. To reduce the students' cost to zero simply shifts more of the expense to the hapless taxpayer, and wastes more money and resources in the process.
When I matriculated to UCLA in 1948, the “incidental fee”, the only cost I can recall besides books, was $39 (including football tickets). Of course, at that time, there were no Deputy Assistant Deans for Diversity (or anything else), because the bureaucracy hadn’t yet matastisized.
Promising people free stuff is the current coin of the realm for most politicians. People are so used to this that, instead of questioning the wisdom of providing fee waivers for 2/3 of community college students, people are saying it’s not fair not to grant the rest the same break. It’s very revealing of the current state of the union. The right question on education is not ”how do we make it free for everyone?”, it’s “why does it cost so damn much?” The same principle applies to health care. The ever-increasing intrusion of the federal government might furnish a clue in both cases.
Someone is paying for the free stuff, and it’s not the Tooth Fairy.
I remember when there was no tuition for in-state residents at any of the public universities and colleges in California. It was that way when I attended UC Santa Barbara back in the 1960's. Yes, there were incidental fees for such things as the Associated Students, the Student Center, college athletics, etc. But no tuition. The fee was about $300 a year (now about $1200 per year) and was not based on the number of units you took.
The state only benefits when its populace is educated. California should go back to having no tuition for in-state residents..