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Getting rid of unfocused community college students
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A free education is a misnomer if there ever was one.

Public education is universally accessible - apparently even for illegal aliens - but it is far from free. Someone has to pick up the bill for instructors, buildings, support services, energy use, and so forth.

That even goes for the University of California and state university system. Tuition isn't paying the lion's share of students' education that one can assume they are pursing primarily to position themselves to make more money.

The latest from the "it-isn't-fair" crowd when it comes to public education in California has to do with the community college system. System leaders are proposing to ration classes for thousands of students as a way of dealing with the continuing budget crisis.

The financial squeeze meant 137,000 community college students who were pursuing two-year degrees or gearing up to transfer to four-year college couldn't get into a least one class they needed for their specific course of study.

The plan is to focus a community college's resources on students following a pre-ordained education plan in pursuit of a vocational certificate or two-year degree. They also must make steady progress on the course they have to choose. If they fail to do so, they would lose registration priority.

As far as students who qualify for tuition waivers - some 47 percent - if they take too many random classes or fail to focus on an adopted course they also will lose registration priority.

That means "free" leisure classes such as music appreciation and such may be history. It also could mean the end of students who turn community college degrees into 10-year pursuits.

This plan is not making some folks happy.

They say raise taxes instead.

And while you're squeezing out more bucks from taxpayers, roll back class fees that went from $26 to $36 per unit in July.

They want the money not to come from Joe Six-Pack but from the rich folks. I'm all for the rich really paying their fair share, which they are not. But to gouge them more than their fair share is a big mistake for several reasons. First, unlike the rest of us they have the means to move their residences and even businesses to a state where there is no income tax or at least lower taxes. Second, the way everyone is talking about increasing the tax rate on the rich is going to backfill all government financial shortcomings come to $18 billion alone at the state level. That is pure fantasy.

The truth is the 99 percent - and primarily the ones gainfully employed - are going to be stuck with the tab.

That's fine - to a degree. Universal access to basic education benefits us all. It is a debt that is paid forward from generation to generation.

Somewhere along the line, though, it got sidetracked from basics and focusing on serious students beyond the 12th grade to becoming a quasi-entitlement program.

Education isn't free. That's why taxpayers who pay for it should have an expectation that serious and focused students only access public education after the 12th grade. Unless, of course, those who aren't focused are willing to pick up 100 percent of the cost per unit including all support services and depreciation of facilities.

If you pay 100 percent of the cost, you can take your sweet time and take all the basket weaving classes your heart desires. But if you're not paying the complete tab or getting it for free then you have an obligation to stay focused and take education seriously.

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.