Calif. college votes to delay disputed 2-tier fees

Apr 7, 2012, 2:10 AM

Associated Press

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) – Trustees at a Southern California community college reversed course Friday on a plan to provide classes using a two-tiered fee scale, voting to cancel a summer pilot program after students were pepper-sprayed at a board meeting this week.

Santa Monica College’s board of trustees voted 6-0 to halt implementation of the self-funded contract education program, which would have provided high-demand core courses at about four times the regular price. As a result, about 50 classes scheduled for this summer are now canceled.

The plan gained renewed attention this week after videos were posted online showing dozens of demonstrators struck with pepper spray Tuesday as they tried to push their way into a trustees meeting. The issue served as a rallying cry for community college students across the nation who believe they should have a free education.

The trustees had already voted last month in favor of the plan, arguing it was an alternative since state budget cuts didn’t leave funding for any more classes. Some of them said after Friday’s meeting that more input was needed from students and administrators before making a final decision.

“I think Tuesday night was a reminder and was a wake-up call for us as an institution that we needed to have a bigger conversation,” said board chairman Margaret Quinones-Perez, who was the lone dissenting vote at last month’s meeting. “We had to stop and look and see what was going on. Tuesday night did that, unfortunately.”

There was a heavy police presence at the building where Friday’s emergency meeting was held. Several dozen people waited in line to get inside, but there was no violence.

Students were encouraged by the board’s decision but said they’ll wait and see what happens next.

“It’s a small victory,” said Marjohnny Torres-Nativi, 22. “We know they are going to bring this forward again. We’re hopefully all going to work together to find a solution.”

College President Chui Tsang requested that the pilot program be postponed to gather more ideas. California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott had spoken with Tsang and had asked that the plan be put on hold, expressing concerns about its legality.

The school had said its lawyers concluded the plan is legal.

Scott praised Santa Monica College’s decision Friday, saying the board has his “respect and appreciation.”

“Although I disagreed with this proposal, I cannot fault college leaders for searching for new approaches to serve students hungry for the opportunity to receive a college education,” Scott said in a written statement. “Tragically, we as a state have failed to properly fund community colleges, and our economy will suffer as a result.”

Scott pledged to work with college leaders on strategies to improve access and success for all students.

Tsang’s request to put the two-tier plan on hold also hinted at the college funding woes that prompted the proposal.

“I must warn that this postponement in no way addresses the state funding crisis and the lack of seats for our students to progress in a timely way,” he said.

Tsang called Tuesday night’s clash a “truly regrettable event” and said the college’s police department will conduct an internal investigation and a panel will be appointed to conduct a separate review.

Students at Santa Monica College have struggled to complete their degrees in recent years as budget cuts have resulted in fewer classes. About 1,100 classes out of 7,430 have been slashed since 2008 at the campus.

Under the two-tier plan, a nonprofit foundation would be formed to offer courses for up to $600 each, or about $200 per unit.

School spokesman Bruce Smith said it had been estimated the courses would attract as many as 1,500 to 2,000 students. With a typical 3-unit course being $540, it could have generated as much as $1 million.

The extra courses at the higher rate would help students who were not able to get into the full, in-demand classes.

California community college budgets have seen more than $800 million in cuts over the past three years, causing them to turn away about 200,000 students and drastically cut course offerings.

The Santa Monica school has an enrollment of roughly 30,000 students.

Most students were opposed to the two-tier plan, arguing it would be a detriment to low-income students who couldn’t afford the new classes. But some students and teachers supported the program.

“Doing nothing benefits no one,” student D.J. Davids said.

Labeled as a way to privatize classes, the program was meant to be a modern-day Robin Hood where the rich would pay more money so the school could benefit, said trustee Rob Rader.

“We’re desperately not trying to be the villains here,” Rader said.

Other campuses are closely watching what happens with Santa Monica’s program. Several colleges also have inquired about starting similar programs.

An Assembly bill last year would have allowed the higher-fee programs, but it did not pass. Fourteen colleges and college districts supported the measure.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Tom Cruise gestures for photographers during the red carpet event to promote their latest movie Top...
Associated Press

‘Elvis,’ ‘Top Gun’ tie for box-office crown with $30.5M each

"Elvis" shook up theaters with an estimated $30.5 million in weekend sales, but -- in a box-office rarity -- it tied "Top Gun: Maverick."
20 hours ago
In this photo released by the Longmont Police Department the Life Choices building in Longmont, Col...
Associated Press

Police investigating fire at Colorado pregnancy center

LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) — A weekend fire at a Christian pregnancy center in north-central Colorado is being investigated as a possible arson, police in Longmont said. The fire at Life Choices was reported at 3:17 a.m. Saturday, hours after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and said abortion laws would be decided by […]
20 hours ago
The Very Rev. Kris Stubna, rector of St. Paul Cathedral Parish, preaches on the topic of abortion a...
Associated Press

After Roe’s demise, clergy lead faithful in praise, laments

Praise and lament for the overturning of abortion rights filled sacred spaces this weekend as clergy across the U.S. rearranged worship plans or rewrote sermons to provide their religious context — and competing messages — about the historic moment. Abortion is a visceral issue for deeply divided religious Americans. Some are sad or angry in […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Average US gasoline price drops 4 cents to $5.05 per gallon

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline fell by 4 cents per gallon in the past two weeks to $5.05 for regular grade, it was reported Sunday. It was the first drop in nine weeks and came with a drop in oil prices amid deepening global inflation fears, industry analyst Trilby […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Newspaper: Oklahoma gun deaths rose as firearms access grew

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gun deaths in Oklahoma have increased since a “permitless carry” law allowing people over the age of 21 to carry a gun without a permit or training went into effect in 2019, according to a newspaper’s review of data. The Oklahoman analyzed state medical examiner data and found that Oklahoma has […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Bosnian Serb member of the tripartite Presidency of Bosnia Milorad Dodik watches military ex...
Associated Press

Bosnian Serb leader prays for Trump’s return, praises Putin

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — The leader of Bosnia’s Serbs said Sunday he hoped former U.S. President Donald Trump would return to power and that the Serbs would “wait for appropriate global circumstances” to reach for their goal of seceding from Bosnia, which he called an “unsustainable state.” Milorad Dodik, who was a rare European official […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Calif. college votes to delay disputed 2-tier fees