Education becoming an elite privilege

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly after the atrocities of World War II, states that, “everyone has the right to education.” It is wrong to deny a student an education that offers a successful future. Yet, the system governing Santa Monica College has been forcing students into the life- stalling decision to not attend school.

“I have had a number of students tell me that they just cannot afford these classes anymore, and are no longer going to attend school because of the prices,” says Jeremy Newman, a student support clerk for the SMC’s financial aid office.

In recent years, SMC has undergone a number of enrollment fee increases, causing students to struggle to afford a higher education that was meant to be “equally accessible.” Classes at SMC were $26 per unit in 2007, and have since increased to the current $36 per unit.

Those $10 might not seem like much to some people, but to students taking multiple-unit classes, the numbers add up. Students pay additional fees to receive support services such as the student ID card, Associated Students membership, and health services, which can add up to nearly $50.

This is not including the parking decal required to have access to on-campus parking, which costs $85 during spring and fall semesters, and $45 during winter and summer sessions.

Newman confirmed SMC’s plans to begin the new contract education plan. Effective this upcoming summer and winter sessions, SMC will be charging $200 per unit on classes with mandatory credits which most students need to transfer or graduate. This could make a single class cost anything from $200 to $1,600, depending on the number of units it has.

“Regular classes will remain at $36 per unit [for the time being], but these high demand requirement classes, whichever ones are decided upon, will cost students those $200 per unit,” says Newman.

International students, who pay $235 to $275 per semester unit to begin with, are not likely to stay quiet on the subject.

SMC international student Xiaoting Lin isn’t taking the new proposal to increase class prices well.

“I am not happy about this,” says Lin. “Prices have already been high before and I will protest. I won’t pay that.”

Superintendent and president of SMC, Dr. Chui L. Tsang says on SMC’s online college governance page, “Our campus boasts one of the largest international student populations of any community college in the nation—2,800- plus from more than 100 countries. They enrich our campus and give our American students firsthand knowledge of the culture,

politics and art of the world.” If Tsang is interested keeping the campus

“enriched” with the diversity of the world, he should not allow the international students to face such a financial hardship. He should also realize that this would likely steer a segment of that demographic of students away from SMC.

In addition to the fee increases, students that are currently part of the Board of Governors fee waiver, the Pell Grant, and other such forms of financial aid, will not be able to use any of these methods to pay for the affected classes. The $200 per unit classes will need to be paid in full from each student’s pocket.

This unfair new proposal has caused opponents, mainly students, to speak out against this injustice.

The Santa Monica College Student

Organization Team has gathered a group of student supporters to protest against the new prices, planning on making their voices heard to the Board of Trustees.

“I came out of high school thinking of going to a community college to save money because universities are so expensive,” says SMC student Kayleigh Wade, a member of the student organization team. “Now, there isn’t going to be a difference. I should have just gone to Cal State Long Beach. It’s like education is now for the elite.”

Tsang also goes on to say on SMC’s online college governance page, “Santa Monica College is committed to global responsibility and awareness— educationally, environmentally, and economically.”

So it is the student’s responsibility to become aware of the economic injustices that are being made against them, and stand up for their rights to an equally available opportunity of education for all, not only for those who can afford it.

Tsang should be able to understand the importance of community college to a student, having attended a community college before transferring to Stanford University, according to his SMC online profile. As president, he should be defending students in this battle, not voting for a budget that requires students to pay something they cannot afford.

The Board of Trustees meeting to decide the new proposal will be held on April 3, at 7 p.m. in the business building