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California Students Oppose Bill to Let Colleges Charge More for Some Courses

Community-college students and faculty members in California are gearing up to fight a bill before the State Assembly that would allow colleges to offer additional sections of high-demand courses at a premium price, the Los Angeles Times reports. The measure, AB 955, would let community colleges offer the higher-priced courses during the summer and winter sessions if enrollment had been at capacity the preceding two years.

The bill is similar to a controversial plan that was considered at Santa Monica College last summer and was criticized as creating a two-tier education system favoring students who could afford to pay. Santa Monica’s president and board backed off of the plan after the college system’s chancellor expressed opposition, saying differential fees would be illegal.

The new bill’s author, Assemblyman Das Williams, a Democrat, said he revived the idea because colleges are still suffering from severe cuts in state support. He cited a report released in March by the Public Policy Institute of California that found that cuts in state support from 2007 to 2012 had reduced access to education and sent community-college enrollments plunging to a 20-year low. The report noted that the passage last fall of a ballot measure known as Proposition 30 had replaced some of the lost money, but said the size of the increase paled in comparison to the size of the cuts.

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