State budget cuts mean another fee increase for college students

Students at Antelope Valley College and the state’s other 111 community colleges will see their fees increase 27.7 percent effective with the summer term.

The cost of enrolling will jump from $36 to $46 per unit, meaning a typical three-unit class that cost $108 in the spring semester will now cost $138. Summer term registration begins May 1.

The increase is the second in less than two years for students in California’s community colleges and represents a 77 percent increase in fees since summer 2010 when it cost just $26 a unit to enroll.

“When legislators developed the 2011-12 state budget, they built in a trigger for a $10 per unit increase in the event state revenues fell below projections. As has become a common pattern by the Legislature, they were overly optimistic in their revenue projections, so we expected since summer that the fees would go up,” said Steve Standerfer, director of public and governmental relations.

The fee hike represents still another challenge for Californians trying to obtain a college education.

State budget cuts have forced community colleges to reduce the number of classes offered and, in some cases, even eliminate academic programs.

At the start of the current budget year in July, community college budgets were slashed $400 million or 6.8 percent. State college officials said the cut translated into approximately 200,000 students losing access to classes.

Then, in February, a midyear cut of $149 million was imposed on the colleges.

“The current year cuts reflect a nearly $5.8 million loss for AVC. That’s huge,” Standerfer said.

AVC’s enrollment has dropped from a peak of more than 16,000 students in fall 2009 to 14,300 the first week of the current spring semester.

“It’s not for lack of student demand that our enrollment has declined. It’s a result of state budget cuts and the subsequent reduction in the number of classes we offer. We have to turn away students because we can’t accommodate any more,” said Standerfer.

The California Community Colleges is the most cost-effective education system in the state, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. While the state revenue needed to support one full-time community college student is slightly more than $5,000 per year, that same student costs approximately $7,500 in public grade schools and $20,000 and $11,000, respectively, at the University of California and California State University.