Even though the state's budget situation has improved, it will be years before California's community colleges will be able to offer adequate numbers of courses. Hundreds of thousands of students will continue to be shut out of classes they need.
Though normally we would deplore creating a two-tiered educational system within the community colleges, now isn't the time to stick to lofty principles about equal pricing for all. The loftiest thing that state legislators could do now is to help students of all financial backgrounds get through college. AB 955, by Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara), would do that by allowing community college districts to offer extension courses over the summer and during winter vacation for which students would pay a higher price, much as they do for extension classes at California State University and the University of California.
The courses would cost up to $200 per unit, or $600 for a three-unit class, which is close to five times as much as a regular state-subsidized class.
We opposed a similar effort last year at Santa Monica College largely because of a concern that it would give the college an incentive to cut back on its state-subsidized offerings. Williams' legislation, however, addresses this concern. Extension courses could be offered only on campuses where classes already were full, and would have to be offered in addition to the full menu of regular courses, not in place of them.