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Richard Rider

CA Community College Tuition and Fees (still) the Lowest in the Nation

Here’s an update of a commentary I wrote in May of 2011, in response to coordinated protests across the state against higher California community college tuition.  It turns out that — even with the 2012 substantial increase in our community college tuition — our community college students still pay easily the lowest community college tuition and fees in the nation — and most of our community college students don’t pay ANY out-of-pocket tuition at all! 

The specific figures in the article below (the article was published in several places) are outdated, so I update the numbers here — and I include not just tuition but the fees.  But note that the other points in the article are as valid today as the day I wrote the piece — many of our students don’t pay any tuition or fees at all! 

2013-14 UPDATE:  Based on a 15 credit (five course) semester, 2013-14 California community college tuition and fees equaled $1,424. The next lowest state is New Mexico at $1,696. Third lowest is Texas at $2,222. The national average was $3,264 — more than double the cost in California (129% higher, to be specific). The highest state is — oddly enough — uber-liberal Vermont, which charges $7,090. 



Community College students: Start paying for your education

Published on Thursday, 19 May 2011 14:15 | Written by Richard Rider

Guest Commentary

Across the state, California community college officials and student activists have been holding coordinated protests. With the usual claimed victim status, they demand higher taxes to subsidize their academic fantasyland. 

But these bureaucrats fail to tell the full story. It’s the CA community college STUDENTS (who benefit the most from the education) who should be paying more for their education — they’ve been over-subsidized long enough.

According to a March 2010 national tuition survey sponsored by Washington state, California has the lowest community college tuition and fees in the country. Even with the increase in per credit tuition from $26 to $36, CA community colleges STILL charge students the lowest tuition — students are paying about a third of the national community college tuition average.

Based on a 15 credit (five course) semester, 2009-10 CA community college tuition and fees equaled $780. Next lowest was New Mexico at $1,125. Third lowest was North Carolina at $1,684. National average was $3,029. The highest state is New Hampshire which charges $6,262.

Adjusting for the new increased $36 per credit CA community college fee, we find that CA community college cost rises to $1,080. Even assuming a zero percent increase in student charges for the rest of the nation’s community colleges — a CA community college tuition is STILL the lowest in the nation.

This ridiculously low tuition devalues education to students. This results in a 30+ percent drop rate for class completion — a course that starts off with 30 students finishes the semester with (on average) only 21 students.

It gets worse. A full two-thirds of California community college students pay no out-of-pocket tuition at all. They fill out a simple unverified “hardship” form that exempts them from any tuition payment, or they receive grants and tax credits for their full tuition.

On top of that, California offers thousands of absolutely free adult continuing education classes – a sop to the upper middle class. In San Diego, over 1,400 classes for everything from baking pastries to ballroom dancing are offered totally at taxpayer expense. 

It’s time to end this madness. Raise our CA student tuition to at least the national community college average. Let those that benefit the most from a community college education pay their fair share for that education. The LAST thing this recession-weary state needs is even higher taxes.

 Richard Rider is Chairman of the San Diego Tax Fighters and has run for public offices multiple times, including mayor of San Diego in 2005. The views expressed are his own.