An Open Letter to Guy Lease, Chancellor Lamb and the City College Board of Trustees

Stop Hemorrhaging Enrollment at City College: End the Racist Payment Policy

Read the  Payment Policy Open Letter

Finger pointingFinancial aid cut-backs and new push-out policies written into the so-called Student Success Act have started a war on students. New regulations and bureaucratic barriers are pushing them out of community college, towards predatory student loans, the for-profit colleges, or endless low-wage work.

The California Community College system has shrunk from 2.9 million students in 2008, to 2.1 million students in 2015, and City College has shrunk from 100,000 students in 2008 to 65,000 today. Push-out policies are now squeezing out the very students who depend on community college the most. What’s happening and why?

Cuts to the Federal Pell Grant

Are you taking longer than expected to finish at your community college? Your Pell Grant might be used up before you even transfer to a four-year university, pressuring you into a student loan!

  • In 2012, the U.S. Congress reduced Pell Grant eligibility from 18 semesters to 12 semesters and eliminated summer Pell Grants. This will reduce total Pell Grant funding by 50 billion dollars over 10 years.
  • Pell now covers only one third of the cost of attending college, the lowest in 40 years.

More than 8 million students rely on the Pell Grant to attend college (more than 60% of African Americans and half of Latino students).

Harsh Payment Policy Adopted by Administration in January 2013

Owe $28 in library fines? Waiting in long lines to see a financial aid counselor? Better hurry… pay up or get out!

  • Starting in January 2013, CCSF administration implemented a new payment policy which forces already-enrolled students to pay fees and small back debts before financial aid arrives.
  • Students who can’t pay are pressured to take out a loan from the predatory student loan company Nelnet, or else are robo-dropped from all their classes. The impact is worst on undocumented students and out of state students, who may find themselves owing several thousand dollars.
  • The administration is willing to forego state appropriations of up to $4,676 for each full-time student, while the average back payment is only $200. This only makes sense if the goal is downsizing and privatization.
  • Neither the students nor the college benefit from this policy, only predatory student loan companies and for-profit colleges.

Course Repeatability Rules

Need a few tries to pass that important math class? Sorry.

  • In 2013 colleges start enforcing “3 strikes and you’re out;” only three withdrawals from a course, then you can NEVER try again.

Trying to master hip-hop dance or art? Repeatability rules will put a to that!

  • In 2014-15, colleges start enforcing that students can only take four skills-based classes in a “family” (i.e. music, dance, or art classes). This blocks working class people from developing a high level of skill in their art, and makes majoring in the arts nearly impossible. It also destabilizes music, art and physical education departments that communities have relied on for decades.

So-Called “Academic Progress” Rule

Life happened and you suddenly had to walk away from classes? Ready to try college again? “Academic Progress” will end community college as the place for second chances, the place where students can hit the re-set button on their lives.

  • Set to take effect in fall 2016, this new state policy denies fee waivers and priority registration to students who over two semesters, either fall below a “C” average or who do not complete 50% of their classes.
  • This policy will cause 42,000 students statewide to lose their BOG Fee Waivers, including large numbers of African American, Latino, Pacific Islander, and disabled students.

Unit Caps

Are you an older student hoping to upgrade your skills? Not ready to stop learning? This policy says your time is up. Limit exceeded.

  • Starting in 2014, students with more than 90 units get sent to the very back of the enrollment line and often won’t get the classes they need.


Bureaucratic Barriers to Enrollment

Bureaucratic barriers set requirements, but don’t give students what they need to meet the requirements.

  • New policies require students to have an educational plan in place, but then over 30 part-time counselors were laid off at City College after the accreditation crisis.
  • Students are robo-dropped from all their classes if they haven’t paid small debts before financial aid arrives, yet major cuts in financial aid staff makes it hard for students to get through complex paperwork.
  • New policies discourage part-time and lifelong learners (for example someone who already has a bachelor’s degree) from taking classes, and the enrollment website makes it almost impossible to sign up.


Why is this happening?

The person who wrote most of these policies, Amy Supinger, was the executive director of the so-called Student Success Task Force. After writing up the 22 new restrictive measures, Supinger went through the golden revolving door, leaving her job as a state government analyst, for a lucrative position with the Lumina Foundation. Lumina was set up in 2000 by the Student Loan Marketing Corporation (Sallie Mae), the country’s dominant student loan company.

As part of its downstream business strategy, Sallie Mae transferred its CEO, four board members, and 770 million dollars to start Lumina. While veiling the hand of the despised student loan industry, Lumina advocates for millions more college degrees, heavy 15-unit class loads per semester (so students can’t work their way through college), yet less public funding for colleges and universities. In short, Lumina’s policies add up to a recipe for a huge ballooning of student debt, already at 1.3 trillion and counting.


–Written by the Research Committee to Save City College, The contact person is Allan Fisher.