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Friday, Nov 09 2012 11:00 PM

CSU's supply-and-demand tuition

By The Bakersfield Californian

The fact that the California State University announced plans to consider new, targeted fee hikes just days after voters approved Proposition 30 says something. Those new taxes aren't a cure-all. The system is still struggling.

What the proposed new revenue would do is stave off massive trigger cuts planned throughout the state's education system if the measure had failed. The money it brings in only starts to bring back what's already been cut -- it doesn't fully restore previous levels of funding.

The timing may be bad but the CSU isn't totally out of bounds with its higher fee proposal for this simple reason: The idea is to move students more quickly through the education system to free up room for others. The fees would apply only to students who:

* already have enough credits to graduate. Those who continue to hang around and take classes after they're eligible to graduate would pay an extra $372 per unit. Space for an estimated 12,000 students could open up if the higher fees work as hoped and motivate "graduates" to move on.

* must repeat a course. That will cost an extra $91 per unit.

* take on heavy course loads. An extra $182 would be charged for every unit in excess of 18 taken by a student.

These fees are high but not unreasonable. And it's hard to find too much fault with them considering they're entirely avoidable. Students simply have to graduate on time, pass their classes the first time they take them, and not load up on extra classes. The fee for taking more than 18 units may be unfair to students who want to pile up on classes in order to graduate early but it's hard to justify letting students take extra classes when so many are being shut out of the system.

The community college system has also made changes to its system to encourage students to move more efficiently through the system, but it was based on registration priorities and not new fees.

The CSU's supply-and-demand strategy is based on a reliable motivational tool: money talks. Students shouldn't be allowed to linger indefinitely and repeat classes without consequences. Space in the CSU system is a precious commodity these days. Helping students understand that by charging higher fees under trying circumstances makes sense.

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