Contract education rasies revenue, and eyebrows

During the fourth week of the fall semester, Santa Monica College began offering, through a contract education agreement, six new classes that are available only to current international students. While this move is forecasted to boost revenue for the college, there remains among the college faculty skepticism regarding the apparent lack of information revealed about the contract.

"We've been doing contract education for as long as I can remember," said Teresita Rodriguez, SMC's vice president of enrollment development. She explained that "contract education is when a school enters a contract with a third party to provide a certain service whether its providing courses for teachers, or in this case, classes for students."

In recent months, SMC administration has faced a tough uphill battle to maintain classes for its student population.  Through this current contract with AC College Associates (ACCA), a Hong Kong based company that provides American education opportunities for international students, the school has opened up classes in biology, economics, history, and ESL. The six classes are taught by SMC professors.

Aside from the standard international student fee, there will be an additional 12 percent charge, which goes to ACCA. Recent class cuts have angered many residents and students, and the administration has made moves to save a few of the non-credit health classes. Nevertheless, since the start of the cull, 600 sessions open to California residents and international students alike have been removed from the class schedule.

One of the major downsides to losing large numbers of classes is that foreign and out of state students that attend SMC may fail to enroll in their requisite 12 units. The reason that this is so detrimental is that international and out of state students account for 15 percent of the college's revenue each year.

"The money that we receive through international tuition goes towards the operation budget of the college in some way, shape or form," said Rodriguez, "there are no restrictions."

The amount of forecasted revenue through this contract is currently unknown. "We have to figure out what the final enrollment is going to be," said Rodriguez. "It's the first time we have offered it in this particular format so we have to figure what the overhead is going to be before we can come to a final denomination."

However there are some on campus who don't agree with the move and others who want to know more about it. "I think it's a terrible idea," said English professor Jim Pacchioli. He feels that the administration has not presented enough information to the academic senate and the faculty regarding the college's current contract.

SMC student and current co-president of IDEAS of SMC Brenda Villafana said, "I like that the school is trying to do something about its lack of funding but I would like to know more about it and what it means for the students."

"One of the reasons that we have felt less cuts on classes than almost all other community colleges is because of that component of our budget," said Eric Oifer, president of the academic senate. He added that, "If we didn't have as large an international student population at SMC we would have fewer classes to offer."

Contract Education allows the school to maintain, not add to, it's current population of international students while maintaining as many courses as possible including winter and summer.