Bill on Brown's desk to make two-tiered system of college tuition: for the rich, and the poor

Students protest two-tiered education system at Santa Monica Community College last year
Photo screen capture of protest video by Corsair Online

It seems that one California politician is adapting an old adage for a modern era: If at first students protest and get pepper sprayed, try, try that legislation again. 

AB 955 is a bill that would create a pilot program to raise community college tuition, allowing six allegedly overcrowded community colleges to charge the full cost of their classes during summer and winter sessions. A three-unit class would jump in cost from $138 to roughly $600, depending on the college involved. Authored by Assemblyman Das Williams (D- Santa Barbara), the bill now sits on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk awaiting his signature. 

The colleges in the pilot are College of the Canyons, Crafton Hills College, Long Beach City College, Oxnard College, Pasadena City College and Solano Community College.

Local community college advocates said the pilot program could crack open the door to a future where two-tiered access to community college is the norm: The rich will be able to get classes, and the poor will be crowded out. 

Those fears are prompting local San Francisco activists to join in the fray.

“AB 955 creates a system of haves and have nots,” said Shanell Williams, the student trustee of City College of San Francisco (no relation to Assemblyperson Williams). “Students that cannot afford to pay more will essentially be denied access,” she said.

Williams is a staunch advocate for education equality at City College, and led many of the rallies decrying the school’s loss of accreditation. She now plans to lead a rally against the bill here in San Francisco. But she’s not the only one who thinks this is a bad idea.

Santa Monica College tried to make a similar two-tiered system for tuition last year, offering classes that were previously closed due to lack of state funding by sticking the whole price of the class on students. Santa Monica College students were far from pleased.

Protests erupted, students were pepper sprayed, the incident became national news, and the idea was criticized across the board as class warfare. 

The students’ outrage doesn’t just stem from raised tuition, but from a broken promise. 

The idea of “open access” to classes is mandated by California’s educational master plan, which states that all students over the age of 18 should have access to community colleges and that tuition would be free. Part of the Donahoe Education Act of 1960, it was signed into law that year by Governor Edmund “Pat” Brown.

The Master Plan has eroded slowly since the 90s, and the once tuition-free UC and CSU systems now charge their students fees in excess of $3,000 a semester for full time enrollment -- inflated prices which so far the community college system has resisted. Classes cost $46 per-unit at each of the 112 community colleges in California.

Assemblyman Williams  justified his bill in an op-ed for The Daily Californian, saying the idea of open access has failed as the California community college system has already shut over 500,000 students from its doors, according to data from the state community college chancellor's office.

“Yes, $600 is more expensive than $138, but only in the short term,” Williams wrote. “What’s the cost to a student forced by the current lack of classes to have to face one to four more years of living expenses to complete his or her education? It’s a lot more than $600.”

But Jessica Jones, two-year student body president of Santa Rosa Junior College, fears that the pilot program may just be the beginning.

“Who’s to say it won’t go like wildfire across the state?” she said in comments to the Guardian. Unlike the UC and CSU students, she fears the community college students she sees everyday would have more to lose when the fees are hiked.  More often, she said, those students are “working many jobs, many have families, you’ll see less and less students able to take courses.”

It isn’t just activists who fear this will go statewide. The state chancellor of all 112 California Community Colleges, Brice Harris, has also publicly denounced the bill.

“The next time the budget goes in the tank they’ll tell (us), we can’t give it to you, tell your colleges to raise fees,” he said at a recent state meeting. “All of us who believe this is bad public policy for California are going to have to speak out forcefully with the (Brown) administration to make them understand what a huge policy change this is for the state of California,” he said. 

Jessica Jones works with the Student Senate of California Community Colleges, and though their opinion is not uniform, many student leaders statewide are organizing actions against the fee hike pilot program. Crafton Hills College, Modesto Junior College, Pasadena City College, Long Beach City College, Santa Rosa Junior College and De Anza College will all have demonstrations or engage in write-in campaigns by the end of next week.

Williams, the City College Student Trustee is organizing a demonstration in San Francisco as well. The protest will be at Powell Street BART station on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 6pm. 


Terrible idea.

And isn't it nice that I get to post first instead of that troll from Los Ángeles (but who claims to live in the Castro) who works for the one-percent.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

My zip code is 94114 and I approve this message.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

and that it is the best investment you can make in your childrens' future, so I believe this is a well supported move.

The fact that CCSF has been a total basketcase only reinforces the idea that community colleges represent investing in our lowest achievers when we should of course be investing in our best achievers.

Sounds good to me.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

if the leadership wasn't so useless.

Posted by Matlock on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

Incompetent managers, bureaucrats and politicians above combined with greedy workers and intransigent unions in the field. CCSF closing is a mercy killing.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 10:22 am

Or maybe the result of doing any reading about the effects of doing something like closing CCSF. A better description of "closing CCSF" would be "attempted suicide" by the City of San Francisco if they ever went along with such a stupid idea - fortunately they're not, and fortunately you will never have a say in the outcome.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 9:39 pm

A good summary of how we got where we are - a vortex of greed.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 11:02 pm

From what I've read about it, it sounded like more of a case of the state no longer giving them the same amount of funds they previously did - yet the people running CCSF still wanted to give an education to as many young people as they could. Where's the "vortex of greed" in that?

I didn't read about any "vortex of greed." Let me guess - your post is just another stupid "all unions are bad so let's blame it on the unions or teachers or both since we rightwingers hate them both." Unless you can back up greed playing a prominent role, I'm gonna assume that's what your post is - sure sounds like it.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 11:37 pm

They're advocating violating decades of good-faith negotiated contracts, blaming public sector retirees for having CBAs that give retiree health benefits & pensions, which the employees, employer, and union all paid into over their entire working life. Remember, in accounting, "unfunded liabilities" generally refers to anticipated estimates of costs over the next *50* years:

"The unfunded liability is the amount of money owed by the District for employee benefits, which include pension costs, retiree medical benefits, and the cost of accrued vacation and sick leave which is paid when an employee leaves the District It's called an unfunded liability because there are not sufficient assets on hand today to meet projected pension and medical benefit payments payments promised for the next 50+ years. This is not at all unusual for a pension system.”

Source, citing Central Contra Costa Sanitary District Vol. 17 #1:

Posted by saintlennybruce on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 6:44 pm

We cannot afford everything and the bottom run of colleges is surely the most apt for culling.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

The predatory recruiting and outright fraud of for-profit career colleges like University of Phoenix, DeVry, et al. that were found by federal investigaors to be defrauding both students and USDOE should definitely lose their accreditation.

Community colleges like CCSF that have higher-than-average performance outcomes, are public, affordable, and have never had their academic quality question definitely should not be lumped in the same pile.

Curious how none of those colleges faced serious sanction by ACCJC...

Posted by saintlennybruce on Sep. 24, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

Making college unaffordable for a large % of the population is a stupid move that will eventually breed lots of crime, a worse economy, and thus less revenue for the colleges. You might want to look up the research that's been done when ideas like this have been tried - that research would show you're wrong.

But I don't know why you thought it made any sense in the first place - making it harder to do something (going to college in this case) just about always results in less people doing it (less people going to college).

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 9:33 pm

And, under CA state law, it is illegal for community colleges to charge tuition. Write you legislator if you want the law changed, but don't advocate officials breaking the law.

If you have the means to subsidize your children's education, congratulations on your prosperity. However, it doesn't mean everyone can, and the literal cost of not educating the 80k students at CCSF is actually higher than doing so.

Posted by saintlennybruce on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

economic utility. Community Colleges are getting smacked down because they are not a high priority resource. If some statute needs to be changed to ratify that policy directive, then I am comfortable with that.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

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Posted by Scott Tucker on Oct. 29, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

classes because the alternative if the rest of us paying for them, and we are already paying for our own kids' college. I have tow kids in college and am not even remotely interested in subsidizing the kids of anyone else.

CA colleges do not have to make a profit but they do have to cover their costs, and $600 is chicken feed, frankly.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

is such a hot bed of technology and upper incomes is it's college systems.

California should remain at the top of the education heap, and it also should be much cheaper. The state democrats at every level have other monetary priorities, the leadership of these institutions think that a full complement of pointless studies classes with no wrong answer than not agreeing with the person in front of the class makes a learning institution.

Posted by Matlock on Sep. 18, 2013 @ 5:59 pm

We need more Hi-B's and green cards.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 7:00 am

We have nurses, trained in the USA, who can't find work, and yet hospitals recruit nurses from the Phillipines and elsewhere. Similar for other health workers, and even schoolteachers. Hire American!

Posted by Richmondman on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 11:04 am

the employer that he/she cannot find a suitable applicant in the US.

A nurse or teacher wouldn't normally get a H1-B visa as you typically need an advanced degree and substantial professional training - in practice it's mostly used for tech positions where the US has a shortage.

I have hired quite a few guys on H1-B, usually from India. Smart guys, well-educated and they speak better English than I do.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 11:16 am

I had to clean up a pile of java poo from an H1-B recipient who decamped back to the subcontinent on a whim, leaving the firm to hold the bag. It was like he learned to program via hand written correspondence courses.

Nothing like that kind of buy in, commitment and skin in the game, huh?

Posted by marcos on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

"I had to clean up a pile of java poo from an H1-B recipient who decamped back to the subcontinent on a whim, leaving the firm to hold the bag. It was like he learned to program via hand written correspondence courses."

Yeah, those Indian H-1B programmers sure are incompetent.

That's why Marcos is so terrified of having to compete against them for work.

Posted by Huh? on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 7:29 am
Posted by Guest on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 8:11 am

Marcos is right to be terrified - a lot of big medical centers are starting to lay off people, thanks to ObamaCare. (The Cleveland Clinic just announced that it was cutting its budget by five to six percent, for example.)

Having a pool of younger, cheaper, browner programmers around must be rather unsettling...

Posted by Huh? on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 10:28 am

I try to stay as far away from patients as possible, there is still plenty of innovation and work in the medical space far removed from the clinical setting.

Posted by marcos on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

Prakash was in his mid 40s with a family, hardly a younger worker.

Posted by marcos on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

to be so clueless to think education underfunding is due to the Democrats in the state legislature in the last, say, 30 or 40 years???

Or maybe it's just being comfortably ill-informed about the facts so that one can rely on Rush and Faux for their truthiness.

You've just revealed yourself to be nothing but a Republican shill here.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 9:51 pm

The people who have been the main party for the last thirty years are blameless for the present state of the California budget. Anyone who holds the majority party responsible for anything is a listener of Fox news and Rush Limbaugh, because facts dictate that not agreeing with the major party is counter factual.

The democrats have had other priorities in this state other than education. Sure the republicans have not been great at it of course, but the party that claims to be about education is busy with other things to spend you money on, for example bowing to the SEIU.

It's touching that people are still such rote and simple party adherents in this day and age.

Posted by Matlock on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 10:25 pm

in California - where a budget couldn't be passed without two-thirds approval in both the State Senate & Assembly - then you would know that the minority party (the Republican Party in recent decades) has had the power to prevent adequate funding of education - or any other funding that was needed.

In other words, because of the 2/3s requirement, the majority party (the Dems) could not pass a budget without approval of the minority party (the R's) so the R's had the power to defund education.

It's cute that ppl are so passionate about their arguments based on a false view of the world.

Reminds me of the math wizards who blame the Democrats in congress when they held the House and Senate under Reagan for things that were passed when he was prez when those votes would be 90% of the R's voting for it, and 10% of the D's - yeah it's the D's fault. If I remember correctly, it was you using that math wizardry so not surprising to see you ignoring the 2/3s requirement to pass a budget.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 11:00 pm

finance tons of prisons as the minority party.

I love these windy posts about how the majority(good) party is stymied by the minority(bad) party, when the minority party gets its agenda through in many cases.

You would think that education is as important to democrats as prisons are to republicans, unless democrats have other priorities?

Now post something about how I can't think for myself.

Posted by Matlock on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 11:29 am

Yep, education at all levels should be a subsidized public utility. It ends up being too expensive to do otherwise. We should pay people to go to college.

Posted by marcos on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

$600 of chicken feed is a decent amount of chicken feed.

But you're basically saying that you would like your child to go to a ritzy private school (which may offer your child a bogus degree, but sounds rather nice because it costs a lot of money) and then emerge into a market that has crashed because our economy tanked due to a lack of trained workers? Consequently, as a result, all that hard earned money you paid for college is later worth squat because the value of the American dollar plummeted along with our crashed economy. So essentially, by divesting from public education (among other building blocks of California's economy) you have wrecked your own children's futures.

Good work, mom. Proud of you.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

then they obviously don't care about you.

Good parents invest in their kids - they do not want handouts and subsidies.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

You missed the above commenters point. Again.

Public education is neither a handout nor a subsidy. It is our commitment to each other and to our children (biological or not), something I don't believe you could possibly understand.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

I agree that we have a commitment to our children. But it is to our own children. If i am willing to invest in school for my kids, and you are willing to pay for your kids, then why any subsidy?

And even high school could be privatized with vouchers being given to parents so they can choose their kids' school rather than have some bureaucrat decide that for you.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

and I am glad that some of my taxes go towards public education. That's right, public. Not some privatization scheme like vouchers that serve to enrich charter or private school owners.

Your selfishness is your own prison.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 8:50 pm
Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 4:35 am

Hope you get hard time instead of Club Fed.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 7:21 am

Study the difference, learn and weep.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 7:42 am

yet you apparently think the person is talking at the level of one pair of parents?

The person's point was that defunding education hurts everyone whether parents A or parents B are "willing to invest $600" in their kids education or not.

The fact that you're willing to invest $600 (or whatever) in your kids education doesn't change the fact that defunding education on a societal level screws all of society - including those willing to invest that $600 for their kids. No one escapes from the effects of it, whether you like that FACT or not.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 10:45 pm

Here's the way a functioning system education system works - in the sense that it creates a strong economy that benefits more people than any other system: those people who graduate from college and get well-paying jobs subsidize the college education of all those who can't afford it.

The payoff is that the economy is much better than if those young ppl don't go to college - and that stronger economy more than pays for itself to those who subsidized it (just as they were subsidized when they were young).

You might think saving a little $ is all you have to consider. It's not - when the crime problem gets so bad - because so many young ppl are not educated enough to get good jobs or any jobs - you will either have to move or risk getting injured or killed as a result.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

Don't be fooled by fraudulent nonprofits, such as Mark Goldes' Aesop Institute. Read reviews:

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 5:56 am

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Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 5:57 am

Das William's notion that open access is what has left 500,000 students out of community colleges is all wrong. The reason for the loss of those students is that the state legislature cut the community college budgets so that they had to cut the classes. If Das Williams was so concerned about losing all those students, then why did he vote to cut the education budget all those years? Why wasn't he out front proposing new taxes to stop the budget cuts to education? Education was supposed to be the avenue for closing the gap between rich and poor. But, with Univeristy tuition skyrocketing so high and now with Das Williams wanting community colleges to better serve the rich, it is clear that our legislature has been voting for a public higher education system that serves the upper class (1%) while leaving those less fortunate from moving upward especially those living in poverty.

Posted by Murakami on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

Maybe you've heard of it?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

If you don't like the CA Master Plan for Education 1960/Donahoe Higher Education Act, lobby your State Senator & Assembly rep to have legislators change the mission & mandates of CA public higher education systems.

Clearly you're immune to the fact that, like universal access to preventative health care, it is actually cheaper in the long term to fund education, for taxpayers, employers, and the State, based on simple arithmetic. Glad Supervisor Mar commissioned that study on the economic impact of CCSF's closure, as actual data is far more persuasive than anonymous one-liners.

Even conservatives in other Anglophone countries acknowledge this, as they have studied it extensively in deciding to fund pre-K-BA education & single-payer health care, but it does require looking past the next business quarter.

Posted by saintlennybruce on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

This applies particularly to education after high school for the lowest level achievers, which is whom community colleges typically target.

If there need to be savings, that where we should get them. Rather than cuts centers of excellence, let's cut centers of mediocrity.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 6:50 pm

Community colleges don't target, they are open admissions institutions, as statutorily defined in the Donohoe Act. Included in the primary & secondary missions are University Transfer, Vocational/Career Education including terminal AS degrees (for paraprofessionals & civil servants like chefs, EMTs, paralegals, nurses, fire fighters, and police) & apprenticeships in skilled trades, and Basic Skills/ESL/GED education, prerequisites for college-level study or decent employment even in the unskilled service sector.

None of the organizations criticizing CCSF are doing it on grounds of academic quality, the issues were planning, budget, finances, and governance. Many SFUSD graduates require an additional 1-2 years of college study to meet basic university admission requirements (lab science, foreign language), even if they were in the top 10% of their class with a 3.8+ GPA & community service (less so at magnet schools). Freshman admission is not an option at many CSU campuses, full-stop, and both CSU & UC have many campuses with impacted majors further increasing selectivity for both freshman & transfer admissions.

It is not persuasive to say that unless you were a star student in a top HS program, that you do not have a right to attempt postsecondary education, whether transfer or vocational. It is not a character defect to be born low-to-middle income, to be a 1st generation college student, a 1st generation American, a re-entry student, a parent, disabled, immigrant, someone with serious health conditions, a caregiver to a sick relative, an orphan forced to go to work early to feed siblings, a foster child, a veteran, or humanitarian refugee from country a hostile regime. While overcoming adversity is exemplary, and being born into privilege is pure luck, both should have an opportunity to attempt to realize their potential through hard work and education.

Posted by saintlennybruce on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 7:58 pm

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