Per-unit colleges an alternative to CSU system

Anthony Carpio

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With a 9 percent tuition increase being implemented in Fall 2012 at CSU’s, pay-per-unit institutions are a cheaper alternative for students.

“It’s a pathway that is far more common today than before,” said Dr. William Watkins, CSUN vice president of student affairs.

He said that pay-per-unit colleges are cost-effective for students who are unclear of their academic objectives.

The set price for all community colleges, decided by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors is $36 per unit.

With an 18 unit cap, students at community colleges pay $648 in tuition fees alone. If a student at CSUN were to enroll with the max of 15 units, they would pay $2,736.

This is due to the CSU systems using a two-tier system, where students that take up to six units pay $1,587 and 6.1 and above pay $2,736 for tuition.

CSUN students pay $182.40 per unit if they take the new cap set at 15 units, and cost rises as less units are taken. At 12 units, students pay $228 per unit. If a student were to take one class, which is usually three units, the per unit cost would be $529.

Kevin Reynolds, the news editor at Pierce College’s The Roundup, plans to transfer to CSUN, but didn’t have a choice other than to attend a community college at first.

“I unfortunately just didn’t try hard enough in high school and I didn’t have the grades to get accepted in (colleges),” he said. “So I went the long route and (am working) my way into the transferring position from a two-year (college).”

Reynolds, a journalism major, believes he is receiving a good education at Pierce, but thinks it differs between campuses.

“I think it depends on the school you go to. I’m a journalism major here and I believe that the department here is actually a very good one,” he said.

Watkins explained the differences between a community college and a four-year university.

“Many individuals go to community college for what we call career purposes. They’re trying to advance themselves and take training that would permit them to move in the marketplace, often without a college degree,” he said. “The career vocational preparation mission of a community college is not the same kind of objective that we have here, where we’re trying to offer a course of study that would lead to a baccalaureate degree at least.”

In the current economic climate, Reynolds understands the situation that students have to face when deciding where to go for education.

“You need at least a bachelor’s degree, so it’s kind of a catch-22 economically,” he said. “You get more at a two-year, but as far as society goes, that two-year degree really is the equivalent of what a high school diploma was 50 years ago.”