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State projections fall short for COC

Posted: August 22, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 22, 2012 2:00 a.m.

A per-unit fee hike in California’s community college system that was designed to increase revenue for the financially hurting schools actually cut their cash flow — to the tune of $1.2 million for College of the Canyons alone, officials said Tuesday.

As the fees went up, more and more students applied for a state fee waiver, which meant they paid less money to take classes, one official explained.

“On many occasions over the last several years, our office has recommended higher fees as a way to backfill reductions in state general-fund support,” said Paul Steenhausen of the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan, Sacramento-based group that advises the Legislature.

Steenhausen noted two fee hikes recommended by the Legislative Analyst’s Office have raised the cost per unit of classes from $20 in 2008 to $46 in 2012. Most classes count for three units of credit.

The most recent increase raises the price of full-time enrollment, which is considered 12 units, by $120 each semester.

“The (state) revenue that resulted from that increase was overprojected,” said Barry Gribbons, vice president of institutional development and technology for College of the Canyons. “After the increase in fees, more students applied for the (Board of Governors) fee waiver.”

This shortfall was anticipated at the time the 2011-12 budget was announced, Gribbons said.

Tough economic conditions are probably the overriding factor in the errant revenue projection, Steenhausen said, adding that even now, a lot of people who are eligible for the fee waiver don’t take it because they don’t realize it’s available.

Almost anyone can be eligible for a fee waiver, he said.

“(The fee hike) might have affected students who were already in financial need but didn’t bother to apply for the waiver,” Steenhausen said.

A bill is before the state Assembly that would completely revise students’ qualifications for fee waivers, which legislators hope will solve the funding issue.

For the time being, local officials aren’t anticipating any additional fee hikes, Gribbons said.


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