Santa Monica community college in California has proposed to provide courses at cost, since students are currently being turned away from massively oversubscribed classes that are offered at below cost. The Chancellor is trying to stop them:
The chancellor, Jack Scott, had already made it clear that he was wary of the community college’s plan, saying it could violate state education codes..."The question, of course, is that the price may well rule out low-income students, and does that go against our philosophy of being open to all? That is the heart of the issue."
No, the heart of the issue is that the courses are currently closed to all. It's a fiction to claim that a community college is "open to all" if it won't provide needed courses to students.
Let students make the choice to use their Pell Grant or loans to enroll in the classes if they want to. Otherwise, many will go down the street to the local for-profit and end up much, much deeper in debt.
Ironically, we see in the same issue of the New York Times California regulators have failed to crack down on unauthorized, for-profit colleges that are charging much higher prices than those proposed by Santa Monica Community College. These colleges also have much worse outcomes for students, as measured by employment and certification rates.