Eskinder Yosef has been taking free English as a second language classes at San Mateo Adult School for the past four months.
Come January, however, Yosef and his classmates will have to pay $30 per semester for the same schooling in order to help the program make up for some of the $1.2 million cut from the adult school budget for the San Mateo Union High School District last year.
Fred Thompson, assistant director of curriculum and instruction, said the school was not charging for the classes because it was prohibited by the state.
That changed earlier this year when the California Legislature cut funding for adult schools by 20 percent, according to the San Mateo district.
In order to offer districts budget flexibility to counteract cuts, the state removed the ban to allow districts to charge for the classes.
According to Thompson, the registration fee is a one-time fee that students pay at the beginning of the semester, but students are able to take any number of classes for the one price. The students that will be the most impacted by new fees include those taking English as a second language courses, the adult general education classes and high school diploma and GED courses. The adult school already charges a fee for some computer courses.
The new fees will go into effect in January. The adult school educates about 13,000 students and operates on a $6.5 million budget.
Yosef said $30 is a small price to pay for what he learns.
“These classes you learn more than just language,” he said, who emigrated from the African nation of Eritrea. “You learn about America and how to live here. I know the language, but learning how to live in America, I can get a better job.”
Margarita Solis, 30, who emigrated from Mexico, said she would have to pay hundreds of dollars each month to get the lessons she gets for free at the adult school. Paying a little each month would only benefit the program.
“I came to the U.S. and to the school to be better,” she said, adding that she also offered to host bake sales on campus to help with the budget cuts. “There’s more opportunity here. Paying that is not too much.”
The increase in fees will not make up the entire deficit, Thompson said. The adult school has had to make some additional cuts in order to keep operating.
For instance, the school’s Saturday programs were canceled, staff was given a two-week furlough in August and GED classes were eliminated on Fridays. Those changes went into effect in May.
“We don’t want to close the doors on anyone,” Thompson said. “We hope this will help keep the doors open.”
San Mateo Adult School
Students will soon face registration fees for classes that were previously free.
$6.5 million: Annual operating budget
$1.2 million: State cuts from budget, starting in fiscal year 2008-09
$30: Fee increase for English as a second language and GED and high school diploma programs
Source: San Mateo Union High School District