Editorial: Community colleges hurt by proposed unit cap

Aspects of Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal for 2013-14 may keep California’s once thriving public education system alive, but the 90 unit cap he’s suggested will remove the very roots which community colleges have grown from.

If enacted, this legislation will require any California community college student who has acquired more than 90 units to pay the nonresidential tuition fee for each consecutive unit they wish to take.

For Los Rios students past the limit it would mean over a 550 percent increase in fees, turning a unit that generally costs $46 into $254.

Recent data compiled from the 2009-10 school year has revealed that over 117,000 community college students have exceed the cap of 90 units,  according to the website EdSource.

In an otherwise logical budget proposal, this bad seed threatens to change the very concept of community college while simultaneously harming a wide range of its students.

The justification is that “90 units reflects roughly 150 percent of units to the 60 units needed to transfer,” according to the 2013 Budget Webinar from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and the Community College League of California.

That would be a valid point if the role of community colleges was to mass-produce students who had the sole intent of transferring after two years, but it’s not.

With this limit, those that actively seek out education are the same people who will be denied it.

Enforcing a 90 unit cap would dismiss the Los Rios vision statement of providing “outstanding programs and services so that all students meet and exceed their personal, education, career and social goals.”

However, this legislation would do more than violate Los Rios’ mission statement and goals.

Community colleges are required “to admit any student capable of benefiting from [the] institution,” according to the Master Plan for Higher Education in California, developed in 1960 by Gov. Pat Brown.

But throughout the years and revisions, nowhere has it said students may be financially discouraged from attending classes.

After all, these are the same students filling the 29 million jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree; thirty percent of which pay more than those that require a BA, according to a recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

California community college students will be the primary taxpayers and voters of tomorrow, impeding their right to education is a short term solution to a long-term issue.

Sometimes it is necessary to trim a few branches in order to save the whole, but Brown should be careful not to cut off too many, it might just kill the tree completely.