Community college chancellor questions legality of two-tier tuition plan

Jack Scott, the chancellor of the California community college system, has requested that Santa Monica College hold off on its plan to offer popular courses for a higher price this summer, saying the legality of the program is in question.

The request, made last Wednesday, came a day after a campus police officer sprayed more than two dozen people with pepper spray as students tried to enter a trustees meeting. Many students and advocates have criticized the tuition plan, saying it violates the long tradition of community colleges as havens for those who cannot afford four-year colleges.

The CSU also is exploring a two-tier model.

Scott is wary of Santa Monica College’s plan, saying it could violate the state Education Code. He has asked the state attorney general for an opinion.

“The question, of course, is that the price may well rule out low-income students, and does that go against our philosophy of being open to all? That is the heart of the issue,” Dr. Scott said in an interview.

“I understand the problem they have, and I am the first to say we need more funding from the state, but this really opens the gates in an unusual way to something I am not sure we want to have,” he added.