Students of 20 continuing-education classes at SBCC will begin paying fees after the college’s Board of Trustees on Thursday approved new rates on selected classes that previously had been offered for free.

SBCC President Andreea Serban told Noozhawk that charging fees for the classes was the only way they could continue to be offered.

SBCC’s Continuing Ed program, formed in 1918, now has an ever-growing student population and a plethora of programming.

“Each year, about 45,000 local residents take advantage of close to 2,500 course selections in a variety of subjects,” Serban said.

But the department also has been the victim of California’s massive spending cuts to higher education and has a large deficit between what it needs to operate for the year and what’s covered by the state, fees and other costs.

Serban said that because of empty state coffers for continuing ed, some classes couldn’t be offered unless students paid.

“Based on current state criteria, these 20 classes are not eligible for state funding,” she said.

Most of the classes under consideration are deemed “recreational” by the state — 14 are cooking classes — and don’t qualify for funding.

Serban said it’s also important to note that the new fees are based on direct costs only.

For example, the direct costs of the class “Jewelry, Dicronics and Beyond” would include costs for the compensation of the teachers, coordinators, the utilities used for the class, guest speakers and other shared costs. Previously, students in the class were required to pay only for the cost of materials, and the course was free.

Depending on how many students are enrolled and the length of the class, students of the jewelry class could expect to pay $77 to $135 per semester, in addition to materials.

“The fees are very reasonable,” Serban said. “Over 90 percent of the classes will continue to be free of charge except for material fees. That’s a very large percentage.”

She said state funding for the classes has been spotty in the past, and that SBCC has been absorbing the costs because of additional enrollment.

“There’s this misconception that we’ll be funded for the course no matter what,” she said.

The costs of enrollment above a certain threshold are absorbed by the college. That’s about $5 million of unfunded enrollment, which Serban said SBCC has chosen to allow because of unprecedented enrollment of adult ed students.

Going forward, SBCC leaders must decide in the next few months which courses to offer in 2010-11, and reducing enrollment is something they must consider.

“Just like everyone else,” Serban said, “we have to live within the limit of revenue we are receiving.”

The 20 courses affected by the fee hikes are The Best American Essays; The Austen Mystique: Why Jane Austen Rules; Poetry, Prose and Plays; Intermediate and Advanced Glass Fusing; Jewelry, Dicronics and Beyond; BBQs and More; Soup, Salad and Dessert; Cake Decorating (beginning and advanced); Celebrate Spring, Chinese Cooking; Fresh Dishes from Vietnam; Indian Vegetarian; Salute to Sushi; Third Generation Italian Cooking; Simple, Sensational Seasonal Cooking for Spring; Spring, Light and Elegant; Global Vegetarian Cuisine; Healthy Foods for Children; Survival Cooking for Singles; and Whole Grains, The Good Carbs.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at

Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper

— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.