Letter to the Corsair about self-funded classes

In March, Santa Monica College announced that it would offer 50 additional sections of hard to get classes on a self funded basis at the ‘state calculated’ cost of $180 per unit. The proposal was criticized by many as creating a two-tiered system of public higher education, one for the rich and one for the poor.  That criticism misses the mark. There certainly is and has been a two tiered system in operation, but it is the separation between those lucky enough to get into a state subsidized class and those who are locked out due to reduced funding by the state that created the two tiers. All public institutions of higher learning have the same problem, although they deal with it in different ways...none satisfying. The issue has become, “What is the meaning of open access to public higher education?” Is it fewer classes for fewer students, or more sections for more students, some paid for by sources other than the state? Most “answers” present choices between the lesser of evils.

I opt for more students and additional sources of revenue to replace the state shortfall. Registration priorities for state subsidized or otherwise funded sections should be determined by a formula that creates space for the most state subsidized students who need the classes to complete their studies at SMC. Because of lack of clarity and adequate campus discussion, the summer program was canceled to calm the waters.  It is our challenge to further discuss the problems created by loss of state funding and to find the best way to preserve open access to as many students as possible.

We must explore revenue-increasing strategies and the pooling of funding sources designed to help students successfully complete their programs of study at SMC as inexpensively as possible.   No options should be off the table for next winter. SMC is a great college and if administrators, faculty, students, classified employees and trustees work together with a sense of common purpose we will figure out how to keep out doors open to all who need us, and to preserve needed jobs.

David Finkel is a professor in the Department of Philosophy and Social Science and a Board of Trustees member