California needs to improve course availability at community colleges and let students complete their education.
Proposed in the bill written by assembly member Das Williams, D – Santa Barbara, AB 955 would allow community college districts to “establish and maintain extension programs at specified community colleges during summer and winter intersessions.”
In a report conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California it is shown that since budget cuts made between 2007 and 2012, academic course offerings have dropped by 21 percent and summer offerings have dropped by 21 percent and summer offerings by 60 percent.
Due to courses being cut, class sizes have increased. By offering classes during summer and winter break students would be able to transfer or graduate faster and that would in turn open additional spaces in classes during the fall and spring sessions.
Poor class availability has allowed students to collect high debts because they are not able to complete their educational in a timely manner.
“The lack of available classes places students in debt because it takes them additional years to graduate,” Williams said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “Despite tuition increases for some classes, shortening the time students spend in school will keep student debt from rising. Even if you have no costs from fees, student debt is continuing to rise just to get done with community college, where it takes longer to complete a program.”
Students are afraid that AB 955 would privatize summer and winter intersessions, creating a two-tiered system. Although tuition during the summer and winter intersessions would be raised from $46 per unit to $200 per unit, the bill stated that the community college districts would expand financial assistance for low-income students enrolling in extension courses.
In an interview with the Santa Barbara Independent, Williams said “there’s three ways you can go: you can go with raising fees overall, which I don’t agree with. You can go with full funding, which will take six or seven years if it ever happens at all. Or we go with my plan, which I don’t view as a perfect option but better than the alternatives.”
AB 955 is not a perfect solution to California’s overcrowding problem at community colleges but it is a step in the right direction.