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Trustees to Consider Delaying Tuition Plan

The Santa Monica College Board of Trustees will meet at 10:30 a.m. Friday to discuss the Chancellor's request that it postpone a controversial two-tiered tuition policy. The meeting is open to the public.

This story was updated at 11:30 p.m. Thursday. For a full update out of the April 6 Board of Trustees meeting, see:

Santa Monica College trustees will meet publicly Friday morning to discuss the California Community College Chancellor's request that it postpone a highly contentious tuition plan.

The plan to offer a second tier of higher-priced, non-subsidized courses that would otherwise be eliminated under severe state budget . As many as 30 boisterous demonstrators who oppose the plan were pepper-sprayed by a campus police officer Tuesday night as they stormed a packed Board of Trustees meeting held on the topic.

Friday's special meeting is at 10:30 a.m. in a new venue—at the college's Theater Arts Main Stage—to accommodate a large audience, said Trustee Susan Aminoff.

Among the demands of student protesters is that the board meet in a larger room. The past two meetings held to discuss two-tiered funding were over capacity, with many students placed in an adjacent overflow room. The college's Faculty Association, a union and advocacy group, is also calling on the board to host all of its future meetings in bigger venue, and for the meetings to be broadcast live.

California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott spoke with Santa Monica College President Chui L. Tsang Wednesday and asked him to put the tuition plan on hold, according to SMC spokesman Bruce Smith.

"The college is taking Dr. Scott’s request into full consideration," Smith said in a statement.

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times have reported that Scott believes the legality of the plan is still in question.

The Faculty Association voted Thursday to support a stay. Its members say the new tuition policy needs to be vetted by the District Planning and Advisory Council, a coalition of district staffers, students, instructors and administrators.

"We demand more openness in this matter, and in all matters going forward,"  Faculty Association President Mitra Moassessi said in a statement. "We need to really examine whether this new fee system is actually good for students, and we can't do that until it passes through the joint governance process."

Before the chancellor made the request, the Board of Trustees wasn't scheduled to meet again until May.

Despite growing student opposition, trustees said late Tuesday night that they would not undo the new policy. They say it will benefit students who have not been able to get the course credits they need to transfer to four-year universities.

Santa Monica College is turning away hundreds, if not thousands, of students because budget cuts have forced it to trim 1,100 course sections since 2008. Statewide, it is estimated that community colleges have turned away 300,000 students because of budget cuts, according to Superintendent Chui Tsang.

The second tier of classes will be offered this summer and winter at the college's actual cost of $180 per credit unit, or $540 for a typical three-unit course. California residents currently pay about one-third of that cost.

On Tuesday night, a group of at least 50 students crowded the entryway to the small regular board meeting room in the Business Administration Building chanting "shame on you!" directed at the trustees. When they tried to force their way into the room, students reported that they were pushed and shoved by campus police, one said she was placed in a chokehold, before an officer used pepper spray.

Gary Avrech April 06, 2012 at 12:16 AM
SMC Trustees are trying to do what's best for the students by offering these classes. When I was President of the SMC Associated Students and Student Trustee in 1979, I went to Sacramento to lobby State Representatives against instituting tuition at California's Community Colleges in the first place. But now, due to cuts in the state budget, SMC students are not able to take classes they need to graduate. By offering the additional classes at a higher cost, students that can afford it will pay to be in those additional classes, thereby freeing up more seats in the regular classes for students that can't afford to pay more. Remember, there is already a two-tiered system where more affluent students are able to go to more expensive private colleges. I'm with SMC's Trustees on this one!
PHIL HENDRICKS April 06, 2012 at 01:24 AM
It sounds like the Chancellor may have made Tsang and the Board an offer they could not refuse: Voluntarily put a hold on their plans, or face a Temporary Injunction against SMC proceeding, which would have added further embarrassment to its already full plate of embarrassing failures.
Martha Clayton April 07, 2012 at 04:09 AM
And how will you prevent students with greater means and higher priority enrollment from just taking the cheaper class anyway? You can't, and there lies just one of the problems with the proposed contract ed classes that students have been worried about. One of the biggest problems with this has been the lack of structural planning with it, the lack of stop gaps and no definitive oversight built into the proposal. We asked many questions like this when some of the Trustees came to the AS meeting last Monday and they told us directly they didn't know how it would work, they were hitting the ground running. Taking the idea back to the table, vetting it completely and developing a range of solutions to utilize simultaneously is going to be more successful than jumping on one path that wasn't ready and winging it. Everyone accomplished a lot today and will accomplish a lot more together for the future.

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