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Students fight bill that would raise class fees
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Proposed legislation that would raise fees for high-demand courses during summer and winter sessions at California community colleges is meeting opposition from students and faculty.

The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Das Williams, a Santa Barbara Democrat, who said he wants to help schools that have been forced by state funding cuts to decrease course offerings and, in some cases, drop entire sessions.

Williams cited a March Public Policy Institute of California report that found that enrollment in the state’s 112 community colleges had plunged to a 20-year low, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The report suggested several fixes, including charging higher fees for those who can pay. Under Williams’ measure, fees would approximate those for nonresidents at about $200 per unit.

The measure is similar to a controversial plan attempted — and then dropped — by Santa Monica College to offer core education classes at a cost of about $180 per unit, alongside state-funded courses set by the Legislature at $46 per unit.

Opponents said that plan created a pathway to a two-tier education system favoring those who can pay.

Williams’ legislation is supported by several college districts and some employee unions and nonprofits.

But students and some faculty are organizing protests and outreach efforts to legislators and the public in opposition to the new bill, which they say compromises open access.

“The idea of moving to a two-tier system is anathema to us even in leaner years,” said Jonathan Lightman, executive directors of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges.

Harrison Wills, the former president of the Santa Monica College student government, told the Times that such legislation would violate what should be a public trust and generate money “on the backs of those who can least afford it.”

Williams said his intention is to help students be able to get classes.

“Everyone advocates for access, but I’m disappointed that no one supports any ideas,” Williams told the newspaper. “This is a modest attempt that is voluntary on the part of students and community colleges. Opponents of the bill should not be able to make decisions for every community college student in the state.”

Last week the bill passed the Assembly’s higher-education committee on a 10-2 vote. It will now be considered by the committee on appropriations.