Tuition remains at $46 per unit
Course costs unchanged by budget proposal
With all of the changes underway at California's community colleges, it is nice for students when some things stay the same, especially the $46 a unit cost of tuition.
While the state has been pushing completion and the enhancement of student services at two-year colleges under the Student Success Act of 2012, the price of tuition at these colleges statewide has remained $46 per unit for the past two years.
Senior Dean of Instruction Donna Floyd said, "Based on the governor's budget proposal for the next (fiscal) year, (tuition cost) is not going up. I don't know when fees will go up again."
Tuition fees increased from $20 a unit in the 2008-09 academic year to $46 a unit in the summer semester of 2012, a 130 percent increase in just three academic years.
Dr. Floyd said that if tuition costs remain the same, it would serve as an incentive for students at Contra Costa College to continue taking classes here and complete requirements.
This is because students would know what to expect when it comes time to pay their bills for a given semester, and allow them to plan accordingly, she said.
"If fees don't increase, it is a good thing for students because they can plan to pay the same amount during their time here," she said. "When fees go up, it costs more to go to a community college, and that's on top of the costs of books and materials."
Director of Business Services Mariles Magalong said California's community colleges not only have the largest system with 112 colleges across 72 districts, but also boast the least expensive tuition costs per unit in the country.
"When you compare the cost of tuition (at California's community colleges) to other states, and look at the current state of the economy, it is already the best bargain in higher education," Magalong said.
Dean of Student Services Vicki Ferguson agrees.
When Ferguson was hired at CCC in 2003, she said she remembers a fuss over raising tuition costs from $11 to $13 a unit, which contrasted her experience at a community college in Louisiana where credits cost $95 each.
According to a report published this month by the state Chancellor's Office, the average annual tuition and fees for a full-time student is currently $13,200 at a UC, $6,695 at a CSU and $1,104 at a community college.
The page in the report is aptly named, "Community Colleges are a bargain."
Despite the inexpensive costs of two-year schools in California, many students are still incapable of paying their tuition fees.
At CCC specifically, low socio-economic standing and a prevalence of students being first generation college students - new to the system and possibly unaware of financial aid or other services - makes finding the necessary funding difficult for many.
Human health services major Tyre Foster said that, though tuition costs could be lower, he recognizes the nation's economy is still healing from the 2008 financial crisis and that education, no matter how costly, is very important.
"Tuition costs are kind of high, but the prices for everything are pretty high right now," Foster said. "I'm 44 now and going to school, and that is a blessing. Everyone (has different motivations), but everyone can benefit from getting an education."
For CCC students who need help paying tuition fees and other costs, financial aid and assisted living programs are available.
The state-funded EOPS assists students who qualify by providing fee waivers and grants.
Students also have the option of submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to receive financial aid or other fee and book waivers from the federal government, if they qualify.
Nursing major Louise Muli said, upon arriving on campus two years ago, she had missed the deadline to submit her FAFSA and paid out of pocket for her first year at CCC.
With her first year tuition costs totaling $1,100, Muli was ecstatic upon receiving federal financial aid via FAFSA, which required her to only pay $5 per semester for tax purposes.
"It was really expensive, especially taking multiple science classes," Muli said, explaining that having multiple lab classes in the sciences, at 5 units each and costing $46 per unit, adds up quickly.
"Ten dollars instead of $1,100 - that's a big (freaking) difference," she said.
Though her financial aid has benefitted her greatly, Muli said she is saddened by the fact that financial aid does not cover summer semesters.
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