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A deliberate education

Governor proposes 90-unit cap for community college students

STAFF WRITER

BARSTOW • If Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2013-2014 budget is approved, community college students who have earned 90 units would face a tuition hike for every unit earned thereafter.

It’s a proposed change to the current format, where unit caps with financial ramifications don’t exist. It also signals an emphasis on moving students to a higher level of education quicker and more efficiently.

Thom Armstrong, president of Barstow Community College, spoke about a shift to increase accountability within all levels of educational institutions.

“There’s a sense that we really need to point kids down a path that leads somewhere,” he said. Included in that sense is “identifying (student) goals very early on, where they want to go.”

A student at Barstow Community College could conceivably earn an associate’s degree with 60 units, which would leave 30 additional units to take advantage of offered electives and other classes of interest before cost-per-unit increases were to come into play under the governor’s proposal.

“When I went to school, you explored,” Armstrong said, explaining how it was reasonable for new students to take time to figure out what they wanted to do. “We want students to be well-rounded and not just take what is required.”

However, the government “might not be as anxious” to pay for that exploration, he said.

Since 2008, state funding for community colleges has been cut 12 percent to the tune of $809 million, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office website.

The result across the state has been reduced class offerings, increased class sizes, faculty lay-offs, furlough days and the rejection of nearly half a million students, Armstrong said.

Due to enrollment demands Armstrong called “tremendous,” BCC has created priority registration for students who have under 100 units — a cap of its own right that junior colleges have needed to employ to allow other students an opportunity to attend school, he said.

Students at BCC were mostly split in their take on the proposal when asked last month.

“By limiting credits students can take,” Souher Hanhan said, “it limits opportunities students have to explore career choices.”

Fellow student, Dalal Museitef, saw it differently.

“It could help motivate people to come to college with a purpose,” she said.

Armstrong noted statewide groups would add their input to the entire budget proposal before it was finalized and stated “nothing is going to be settled for a while.”

There are many caveats to the 90-unit cap, he said, but he concluded he wasn’t against it.

“Nevertheless, 90 units from my perspective — that’s not a bad thing.”

After ongoing legislative hearings, the governor will release a revised budget May 14, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office website.

Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at SJohnson@DesertDispatch.com.


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