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Calif. plan to charge more for popular classes put on hold

LOS ANGELES - The chancellor of California’s community college system has requested that Santa Monica College hold off on its plan to offer popular courses with higher tuition this summer, saying that the legality of the program is in question.

The request came a day after a student protest at the college ended with a campus police officer spraying dozens of people with pepper spray, and several of them suffering minor injuries. Many students and faculty members have criticized the plan, saying it violates the tradition of community colleges as havens for those without the means to afford four-year colleges.

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The chancellor, Jack Scott, had made it clear that he was wary of the plan and said it could violate state education codes. He has asked the state’s attorney general for an opinion, which he expects in the next week.

Last month, the college’s board of trustees approved a plan that would offer about 50 high-demand courses at $180 a unit, rather than the regular $36 tuition. College administrators have said that the higher tuition would cover costs.

For years, the college has faced increased demand and overcrowded classes as the state has cut financing to community colleges. Students routinely complain about not being able to take classes that they need for job training and transferring to four-year schools - a problem that plagues community colleges across the country.

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