New bill proposes higher tuition for out-of-state community college students

A bill that would allow community college districts to raise fees for nonresident and foreign students is currently awaiting signature on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk.

AB 2297 would establish tuition that will more accurately correlate to the burden taxpayers carry in providing out of state students a community college education. The bill from Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica unanimously passed the Senate on Aug. 19.

The proposal does not require supplemental costs on the state and would minimize the effect of budget cuts on community colleges while providing relief for taxpayers.

The current formula community colleges use to determine fees for nonresident students does not adequately reflect rising education costs and significant decreases in funding for community colleges, said Brownley. This has resulted in an unintended benefit for out-of-state students, as their fees have dropped.

According to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, the new formula to determine nonresident tuition outlined in this bill could bring community college districts tens of millions of dollars in additional fee revenues.

AB 2297 provides a means for a community college to increase the level of nonresident/international tuition to improve the quality of education for all community college students," said Brownley in press a release.

In the last 10 years, average nonresident tuition fees have dropped from $190 to $175 per unit, while resident fees have risen steadily.

Many states charge much higher out-of-state tuition compared to the fees imposed on non-resident students in California.

Data published by the Missouri Economic Research & Information Center and the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board shows that community colleges in 12 states with cost of living most comparable to California impose average fees of $310 per unit to nonresident students.

Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Brea, stood in support of Brownley's bill on the Senate floor before the most recent vote.

"California taxpayers should not be subsidizing education for out of state students," said Norby.

Community college district governing boards do not have the flexibility to prevent California taxpayers from subsidizing education for out-of-state students under existing law, but AB 2297 hopes to fix the inequities.

The current formula requires the governing board to consider non-resident tuition fees of public community colleges in other states when determining their own fees.

AB 2297 would take that requirement one step further, authorizing the governing board to adopt a non-resident tuition that is no greater than the average of nonresident fees charged in at least 12 states comparable to California in cost of living.

Out-of-state students who attend public colleges and universities in California do not always become permanent residents of this state, nor have they paid taxes to support the public education systems they use. Higher charges for nonresident students are commonplace and used as away to ensure California taxpayers aren't the primary source of funding for such students.

The bill provides for the additional revenue generated by higher tuition paid by nonresident students to increase the quality of services provided by the schools to California residents. According to the bill, the admission of nonresident students will not come at the expense of resident enrollment.

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