In an effort to continue being able to offer state-sponsored education in light of tremendous budget cuts to California’s higher education system, a proposed bill being negotiated creates “extension programs” for California community colleges that can be similar to existing programs, but with higher tuition. Jack Scott, California Community Colleges chancellor, reports that this proposal comes at a time when “approximately 140,000 students have effectively been denied access, over 95 percent of all classes are at capacity, and an estimated 10,000-15,000 students are on wait lists for courses.” In essence, California community colleges are facing budget issues at a time when demand outpaces supply.
Usually in such situations, colleges could either raise tuition, or look to decrease costs as solutions. The proposed bill, while under the guise of creating “extension programs” that have increased tuition, is another way of trying to bring in more money instead of decrease costs. Yet an alternate solution does exist – California community colleges can turn to incorporating greater emphasis on online education as a solution capable of bringing down costs. With the advent of online methods, incorporating online courses provides an affordable and relatively swift solution to California community colleges budget and demand crisis. Instead of looking towards a bill that will deny greater numbers of Californians the opportunity of going to community college, California community colleges will be able to keep their mission of open-access education simply by utilizing existing online methods.
Community colleges are supposed to be about helping communities attain affordable education. University of the People, as a model for tuition-free online education, urges California’s community colleges to do the right thing. UoPeople opens the door to constructive dialogue and welcomes California community colleges’ inquiries on how UoPeople’s model can be duplicated by community colleges to successfully bring down the cost of higher education and democratize access for all.