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Calif. college puts tiered fee scale on hold

SANTA MONICA, Calif. - The board of trustees at Santa Monica College voted Friday to postpone a two-tiered fee scale that brought angry campus protests where students were pepper-sprayed.

The board decided at an emergency meeting to wait on a plan to deal with budget cuts by offering high-demand core courses at about four times the regular price.

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On the 6-0 vote, the board followed the recommendation of the college’s president, Chui Tsang, who circulated a memo before the meeting urging that the plan be put on hold at least for summer classes to allow more time for community input.

His request to the board also hinted at the college funding woes that prompted the fee plan.

“I must warn that this postponement in no way addresses the state funding crisis and the lack of seats for our students to progress in a timely way,’’ said the resolution obtained by the Associated Press.

The trustees had approved the two-tier fee scale last month.

Students called for a referendum on the measure, and California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott asked Tsang to put the plan on hold, expressing concerns about its legality. The school has said its lawyers have concluded the plan is legal.

On Tuesday night, dozens of students were pepper-sprayed by police as they tried to push their way into a trustees meeting.

There was a heavy police presence at the building where Friday’s meeting was being held, but there was no violence.

Students at the college have struggled to complete their degrees in recent years as budget cuts have resulted in fewer classes. About 1,100 classes out of 7,430 have been slashed since 2008 at the Santa Monica campus.

California community college budgets have seen more than $800 million in cuts over the past three years, causing them to turn away about 200,000 students and drastically cut course offerings.

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