New College Course Prices Slammed as "Toll Road" for Priviledged Students

Some students say the new prices are prohibitive, while those who can afford it say the new pricing model will help them graduate sooner

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Long Beach City College will now offer extension courses for high demand class. After a vote on Tuesday, they will be offered at a much higher fee. Hetty Chang reports from Long Beach for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Oct. 23, 2013. (Published Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013)

    Long Beach City College is the first in the state to participate in a pilot program that would charge higher fees for high-demand classes.

    Despite opposition from some students, the Board of Trustees Tuesday night voted 4-0 to move forward with offering two new winter sessions in November, one of which would offer courses at $225 a unit – compared to $46 a unit, which is what students are used to paying for traditional classes.

    Some students call this "two-tier" program unfair to the community college's approximately 27,000 students -- two-thirds of whom qualify for Pell Grants, according to a school spokesman.

    Some of those students told NBC4 they are now planning a protest of those courses.

    "$225 per unit is equal to a UC school," said Jessica Bracho, president of LBCC's civic engagement club. "We're at a community college because we can't afford that at this point in our lives.

    "This is supposed to be a stepping stone, not a financial burden," she added.

    Brianna Smith said between taking care of her 6-month-old son and getting her education, a spike in tuition would be prohibitive.

    "I wouldn't be able to do it, because that's expensive," Smith said.

    The extension program was recently signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown and allows for community colleges to offer a pilot program in which students can sign up for high-demand courses when state funding is not available to support such classes.

    "This bill gives us an opportunity to add additional courses above and beyond what the state supports," said Eloy Oakley, president and superintendent of LBCC. "That will give some students the ability to take the courses they need to transfer or get into the workforce instead of spending another year here at Long Beach City College."

    Students in need of financial support could qualify to pay a lower fee of less than $100 a unit, according to Oakley.

    Those who can afford the higher fees are all for the program.

    "I would be more than willing to pay whatever I needed so I could graduate on time and transfer out," said Jewels Lagman, an environmental engineering sophomore.

    Still, some opponents, including teachers, are calling it a toll road for the privileged.

    "I think it should be better touted as it's a bill for the privileged," said Janet Hund, a sociology professor. "The community college mission is not to promote privilege but equal access to all in the community."

    Several other community colleges can choose to participate in the pilot program, though no other colleges have moved as quickly as LBCC.

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