Fee hike to take place for summer semester

Keith Kaczmarek, Reporter

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Beginning in the summer session, fees at all California community colleges will change from $36 per unit to $46 per unit.

This change was mandated by the 2011 Budget Act and was set off by California budget shortfalls that set off “triggers” in the budget approved in December and based on just how much money was missing from the budget this year. This lack of money set off the worse-case scenario triggers, known as the “Tier 1” and “Tier 2” triggers, and all have been enacted except for K-12 revenue limit cuts.

For the 17,034 students at BC, these cuts to the state’s education budget will have little effect other than the state-mandated fee increase as KCCD has already set its own budget to account for the worse-case scenario that has occurred.

In an email from Sandra Serrano, Kern Community College District chancellor, she stated, “KCCD remains on track with its financial plan, which includes exercising restraint. Our priorities continue to be to educate students and retain our employees. Together we will protect our mission to provide outstanding educational programs and services to our diverse students and communities.”

That being said, we have 13% fewer students than we had last year, about 2,615 people as of Jan. 19.

The fee increase was supposed to go into effect retroactively beginning in the Spring semester, but timely action by the state legislature deferred the fee increase until Summer semester.

“There was no one that thought this would not happen,” said Amber Chiang, director of marketing and public relations for BC. “We needed to budget appropriately and we did that. Everything that has happened was planned for last May.”

In each of the last three years, the state’s budget for community colleges has been reduced each time, and the school used carry-over money from last year to cover various shortfalls in the budget, and there is some concern that further cuts will mean the cap on students the college is expected to serve might be lowered.

“Maybe two years before we bottom out,” Chiang added.

Small tax fee shortfalls and more enrollment fee shortfalls have also happened. For example, more students are using a Board of Governors waiver (BOG) to be excused from paying per unit enrollment fees, and the state does not reimburse the college for those lost fees.

Considering that funds are often allocated to specific projects by the state, little wiggle room exists in the budget. For example, the funds for the renovation of BC’s Forum could be given back to the state, but that money would only end up allocated to another theater project at another community college.

To address some of these issues, California Governor Jerry Brown is planning to propose additional taxes on the November ballot in an effort to bring another $7 billion to the state, but if voters do not pass those taxes then additional cuts may be in the future.

There is also proposal to not defer $218 million in community college funding from the usual $1 billion in deferred funding, but this only gets money to the school earlier and does not actually increase our yearly budget at all.

“We are going to issue trigger cuts, and a little more,” said Greg Chamberlain, president of BC. “We used some carry-over money last year to balance last year’s budget. If our budget is cut more, we’ll have to use carry-over.”

Many of the cuts have been to adjunct professors who teach without benefits or a full schedule and don’t have tenure. These cuts have led to 113 fewer sections from last year, leaving a total of 1608 sections of classes.

Chamberlain is also concerned about the other effects the state-wide budget cuts will have on students.

“We look at students realistically… many of our students avail themselves of other social programs, and these cuts make it hard for them to come to school,” he said.

Chamberlain had this to say to students: “Register early and carefully. Take only what you need to grow and go.”

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