“To stay, to flunk or to take a ‘W’?”

“To stay, to flunk or to take a ‘W’?” As October nears and the semester gets further along, students begin to ask themselves this very question as classes get harder and work schedules change.

Changes to Title 5, the state Education Code, will limit the number of times a community college student can repeat a class. Previously, students were allowed seven chances to pass a class with a grade of C or better before the state cut off funding; now the magic number is reduced to three.

According to the publication California Watch, limiting the times a student can enroll in a single class to three will save the state an estimated $235 million dollars.

Yes, the new limitations will create a sense of urgency among the student body to stick with a class, instead of withdrawing, and pass it within the first couple of tries.

Yes, the new limitations will put end to “student shopping,” in which a few students enroll in a large amount classes, knowing they can take a “W” if need be.

Yes, the new limitations will save the state money, potentially allowing more funding to go to the expansion of classes and programs.

Yes, the idea of saving millions of dollars and space in critical classes is appealing.

But these changes will cause vast inequities.

The first inequity is that the assessment testing process for incoming students is flawed.

Many students are placed in English or math classes that are either too remedial or too hard for their skill level.

According to a report done by the independent research organization WestEd in San Francisco, less than half of the 112 community colleges in the state provide practice tests for students and the remaining colleges often do not inform students of this valuable resource.

When students are unprepared for their assessment tests, it puts them at huge disadvantage to be placed in the correct class.

In a study conducted by California State University, Sacramento in October of 2010, researchers found that poor class placing was one reason why only 30 percent of community college students working toward an associate degree or transferring to a four-year university achieve their goals within six years.

A second reason students retake classes is a learning disability. With the influx of budget cuts to Disabled Student Services, assistance for students who need extra help is very limited. DSS also helps students identify learning disabilities that they may not have ever realized were holding them back. Many students struggle for a long time before they realize that they need help.

Without a grandfathering clause, the changes to Title 5 are retroactive and will prevent students who have already taken a class three times from taking the class again starting summer 2012. Students who have withdrawn from a class three times will not be allowed to take key classes for transfer, also preventing them from earning an associate degree.

Limiting the number of times a student can repeat a class is yet another example of California community colleges venturing away from their motto, “lifelong learning.” Changes turn students away from furthering their education and taking classes for self-enrichment. Though in these economic times saving money is always good in theory, the state needs to take into consideration how students will be affected.