Community Colleges Attempt “Free” Tuition

Community Colleges Attempt Free Tuition

Dear Editor,

Staff writer Charu Mehra’s rebuttal of “a radical proposal” to lower public university tuition costs, showing a cartoon of the at-risk Stanford University [once viable, now boarded up], was hilarious. Gifts to that Palo Alto private university in a recent Fiscal Year topped the scale at $1.035 billion; even UC San Diego racked up $135 million in that one fiscal year alone.

Stanford University surpassed its previous record of $911 million.

The $1.035 billion is equal to nearly $56,000 for each of its roughly 18,500 students, though typically endowment money is used for research and construction. Although NYCC had free tuition in the 1930s — as did UC San Diego in the 1960s — today’s trend is for higher public university tuition costs. An L.A. Times’ article published the same date as the Mehra article, “Long Beach City College experiments with tiered pricing,” reports “high-demand courses are offered at a higher price.”
A monthlong winter extension course at LBCC under the program could cost up to $225 per unit, nearly five times the normal price.

Educators and experts say colleges nationwide may be watching the Long Beach experiment, one of the few such programs in the country, as a way to get around budget cuts and high demand for required courses.

The state’s 112 community colleges sustained $1.5 billion in budget cuts between 2007 and 2012. A two-year public college in this state typically charges $46 per unit, among the lowest in the country.

The five higher-priced winter courses at Long Beach included offerings in environmental science and geography. The college had to cancel a business course because of lack of interest. Critics decry the idea, saying it gives wealthier students an unfair advantage. “It creates two types of students: those who can pay and those who cannot. And it’s unfair to the students who have to feed families and are unemployed,” said Andrea Donado, the student representative on the Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees.

Of the 64 comments on the article posted on the Feb. 3, 2014, LA Times website, most were supportive of the current tuition pricing structures at California’s Community Colleges.

One commentator remarked that free tuition was before Prop 13, while another doubted that public university chancellors were then making $600k per year.

Richard Thompson
UCSD Alumnus ’83

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