A recommendation put forward last Thursday to help ease the $11.2 billion deficit California faces includes raising community college student fees. The recommendation comes from a nonpartisan group called the LAO (Legislative Analyst’s Office) that provides analysis to the state with regard to fiscal and policy matters. PACCD Trustee and newly appointed Board of Governors member Geoffrey Baum stressed yesterday that the fee increase was only a recommendation, and it had not come from the BOG or the governors office.

“I am not aware of any formal action to increase fees,” Baum said.

CCC advocates at the Nov. 14 meeting outlined three main points for the Legislature to take into account. Community colleges are crucial in California’s economic recovery, the proposed $332.2 million reduction would force the community colleges to turn away over 260,000 students, and that for every dollar invested in a student who graduates, the state sees a three-dollar return as that graduate earns better wages.

That would mean a greater return for California if community colleges and their students were taken care of financially.

“Every time we raise fees it creates barriers for our students,” Mark Zacovic said. “So, it’s not a good thing.” Zacovic is the vice president of administrative services for PCC and had presented the adopted budget to the Board of Trustees last month.

The current state legislature’s term ends Nov. 30, but state leaders have indicated that Nov. 23 is logistically the last day to take action. It’s uncertain whether an agreement can be reached before then.

On the table is the governor’s special session budget package, which proposes to reduce general purpose apportionment funds for community colleges, but allow districts flexibility to redirect categorical funds in order to absorb the effects of the cuts.

The LAO recommends rejecting aspects of the governor’s proposal in regard to colleges. Instead they propose to increase student fees and project that it will generate $40 million in the current year.

That’s not much comfort to students or professors. Maria Mayer, who teaches Spanish at PCC, believes that there needs to be a joint effort to address the economic stresses that are already placed on students.

“Obama and Schwarzenegger need to meet to deal with this,” she said. “There is a horrible debt waiting for our students when they graduate.”

Some suspect that the proposed increases won’t be restricted to just fees.

“They’re going to want to raise the price of everything. It starts with tuition fees, but then it’s books, and lab supplies, and it goes on from there,” said Yesenia Ramirez, a 20-yr-old psychology major.

The LAO also recommends that certain enrichment and physical education classes that are credit-bearing and are funded at the credit-bearing rates be cut so that those classes will be funded at the noncredit rate. The LAO finds that the per student funding rate for noncredit course equals roughly one half of the credit-bearing rate.

“It’s not good,” Ramirez said. “As it is I’m having trouble paying for it.

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