Columbia Countys summer school enrollment really does seem to have dropped as a result of an increase in the programs tuition.
Thanks at least in part to a $60 increase in the price for each class - a 24 percent hike over last years cost - enrollment is down 48 percent from last year.
Some school officials are rightly worried that the higher costs have priced some students out of the system, in spite of payment plans that have helped 88 students to pay the $250 cost. If there are 300 less students in there, youve got 300 students falling further behind, says School Board member Lee Muns.
Im not aware of anybody thats not coming because of money, says Curriculum Director Nettie Engels. They may be out there, but they havent come to us.
Still, a drop from 851 students last year to 544 this year is significant enough to at least raise the question of whether the county can do more to help struggling students attend such extra classes as summer school and night school. After all, if these students are willing to invest the time to improve themselves, the county should do what it reasonably can to accommodate them.
Education numbers routinely reflect that better-performing students come from areas with higher incomes, and vice-versa. As a result, students needing remedial help are disproportionately those with less family income available for extra classes.
Having said that, its important to remember why tuition went up this year in the first place. Summer school programs arent taxpayer-supported, and must be able financially to stand on their own; last year, Columbia Countys summer school ran in the red.
Additionally, all students paying to attend summer school have already been given access to a full school year, free of individual charge, courtesy of taxpayers who finance the educational system. Students who flunk a free class during the year may be a little more focused on their schoolwork when mom and dad remind them of the out-of-pocket cost of a summer-school retake.
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