Assemblyman Cameron Smyth has co-authored a bill that, if passed, would authorize community colleges to offer extension programs of credit courses. Like currently existing law regarding community service classes, the bill would specify that the courses must be self-supporting, open to the public, and developed and conducted in conformance with statutory and regulatory guidelines.
“This bill would give community colleges more flexibility in meeting the needs of the public by allowing the colleges to offer an extension program of credit courses in areas such as advanced technology and workforce development at no additional cost to the state. Colleges could provide public access to the classes offered under contract with other agencies and companies without first obtaining approval of the Board of Governors of California Community Colleges.” states the website of Smyth’s co-author, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley.
Community colleges would not receive General Fund money to help establish or maintain the courses, so students would have to pay the actual price of the course, which would be considerably higher than the current $26 per unit price of California community colleges. However, according to Sean Hoffman, Legislative Director for Assemblyman Smyth, these extension courses are not intended to replace the general education courses students are required to take.
“It a provides a more flexible way for community colleges to increase access during tough budget years. While they’ve found that a lot of students, in the absence of these classes being offered, turned to proprietary colleges which have higher tuition and fees and also spend a much smaller percentage of those expenses on actual classroom instruction, this seems to be a much more cost-effective way to provide access to students.” said Hoffman.
Critics of the bill have raised concerns that the more expensive classes would create a system where wealthier students would be provided more opportunities than others. Others are concerned that the extension courses would draw away resources from non-extension courses, though there are provisions in the bill to protect them.
College of the Canyons is among the community colleges that have requested this bill. Speaking of a survey held at COC, Hoffman adds, “They found that there is pretty substantial interest in these types of courses even at a higher cost per unit. So, there’s certainly a demand for it.”