The Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees voted 4-3 on Wednesday to gradually convert certain adult education classes from free to fee-based beginning in the fall.
Instead of changing everything in the fall, 40 percent of non-credit, non-enhanced classes will become fee-based for fall term and another 20 percent for winter term. That plan also got consensus from the College Planning Council and the Continuing Education Consultation Council at a Monday meeting so spirited that Acting President Jack Friedlander called it “shared governance on steroids.”
The trustees were predictably split on the decision Wednesday. Some pushed for all classes to be fee-based by spring, and others argued against it, saying the Center for Lifelong Learning depended on a solid student base in Continuing Education.
An adopted budget has to be finalized in September, and the trustees are likely to readdress the issue then or after the November election so they can consider the success or failure of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative. The center is expected to open in the spring.
The members elected to the Board of Trustees in 2010, including Marty Blum, Marsha Croninger, Peter Haslund and Lisa Macker, were prompted to run over concerns with continuing and adult education and, as the board majority, readily approved the slower conversion of free-to-fee-based classes.
Their concerns, and those of several speakers who attend or teach adult education classes, stem from administrative estimates that half the fee-based classes won’t make it. If enrollment isn’t high enough to pay the costs of the class, they’ll be cut.
Speakers said Wednesday that the college should preserve as many adult education classes as possible, and that many students could be turned away by the fees.
Croninger said SBCC needs a community-based effort to make the Center for Lifelong Learning a success, including a strong base of students.
Trustee Joan Livingston disagreed, saying the college has focused too much on Continuing Education in recent years and the conversion plan has been talked about for three years. The original proposed budget for 2012-13 had 100 percent conversion in the fall, but somewhere along the line that was changed and this new idea was proposed.
“At some point we have to really focus on our mission; free classes are not our mission,” Livingston said. “We’ve been down this road for so long, it’s time to bite the bullet.”
The other two more veteran trustees, Morris Jurkowitz and Luis Villegas, voted with her against the proposal.
It would cost SBCC about $450,000 to convert 40 percent of those classes to fee-based in fall, 60 percent in winter and 100 percent in spring term, according to estimates from the Business Services Division.
The trustees also voted to discontinue non-credit courses at the Ventura County Jail starting in winter term, since it’s out of the district and would net about $80,000 in savings for the 2012-13 year. Croninger said SBCC can’t afford to be paying for something the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department is required to provide.
For more information about the distinction of non-credit, non-enhanced classes, click here to visit the Continuing Education Department’s Frequently Asked Questions page.