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Assembly bill reaches governor’s desk

Assembly bill proposes intersession courses at full cost per unit

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Students at six California community colleges will have the opportunity to accelerate their educational goals with greater access to high-demand classes if Assembly Bill 955 passes.

The bill was proposed by Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, on Feb. 22, and creates a pilot program between the six colleges. Students at these six colleges will have the opportunity to enroll in courses offered during the winter and summer intersessions if AB 955 passes. However, CRC will not be affected in any way by its passage.

“The bill is currently on the governor’s desk so that the final action is whether or not he signs the bill,” said Los Rios Community College District Chancellor Brian King. “The governor has now between the middle of October to decide to sign or veto the bill that has been passed.”

College of the Canyons, Crafton Hills College, Long Beach City College, Oxnard College, Pasadena City College and Solano Community College are the six colleges from various districts that will be given permission to offer such courses if the bill passes.

I wouldn’t want to force this on any college. Any college who wants to do this in the long-run will step forward and ask to be added onto the pilot program.”

— Das Williams

“CRC and the Los Rios district have been adamantly opposed to the bill from the beginning,” King said. “Our big concern is the idea of having it be based on who is able to to pay and who is not.”

Whitney Yamamura, vice president of instruction and student learning echoed a similar response.

“Often times, in our particular community, we’re very conscious of providing access to students who might not otherwise have access to higher education opportunities and part of the access is having low fees,” Yamamura said.

Part of the issue is that the bill gives those students who have more financial resources more access to those classes. That is, lower-income students may be unable to afford the classes like the higher-income students.

“It increases the gap between the haves and those in need,” King said.

King said Los Rios is opposed to the idea of offering these additional courses at higher prices, and are concerned that if the prices are too high it would create a gap where students would have to pay most of the cost for these classes.

“I think most of the funding comes out of the pockets of students,” King said. “For the statewide government office there are some costs involvements in administering the pilot, but I think the big concern is students have to pay higher fees for access to classes.”

However, the bill will provide financial aid to low-income students in an effort to make it more affordable and to narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots, Williams said. Adding that financial aid will not be funded by the state, but solely by Pell grants, campus foundations and one-third of the revenues collected from the extension program.

The difference in cost between intercession courses and normal courses offered during the regular school year is due to the lack of state funds to budget these courses and is the reason why students would have to shoulder such costs, Yamamura said.

Adrianna Ramirez, 21, an art major at CRC, also said the program would only benefit those who can afford it. 

Our mission is to have our doors open to everybody and the reality is we [community colleges] serve most of the disadvantaged students, so it’s a message that is contrary to our fundamental mission”

— Whitney Yamamura

“I think it could be beneficial to a certain degree for people who actually want to get better at what they are pursuing and are willing to put up front the money, but not everyone has the money to do it,” Ramirez said.

Perhaps the biggest concern with the bill is that it violates the community college’s mission of providing equal education.

“Our mission is to have our doors open to everybody and the reality is we [community colleges] serve most of the disadvantaged students, so it’s a message that is contrary to our fundamental mission,” Yamamura said.

The need for these intercession courses stems from the fact that there has been a decline in courses offered in California’s community colleges from 420,000 to 334,000 since 2008, according to the Assembly California Legislature document for AB 955.

This bill would give students greater access to classes that they need to meet their educational goals. These courses would also benefit faculty and veterans under the GI Bill, according to the Assembly California Legislature.

CRC and other colleges not listed on the bill will not be affected by the passage of the bill, but will have the choice to opt in at any time.

“I wouldn’t want to force this on any college,” Williams said. “Any college who wants to do this in the long-run will step forward and ask to be added onto the pilot program.”

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Assembly bill reaches governor’s desk