In addition to asking the college to temporarily halt the program, the agency has also called on the attorney general to judge whether the plan was legal.
This comes one day after campus police used pepper spray on students who were protesting the plan. Students were upset because only a handful of them got into the board meeting discussing the plan on Tuesday night.
The students are against the plan that would offer extra courses at a higher rate with a fee structure of $200 per unit compared to the normal cost of $36 per unit. The plan involves the formation of a nonprofit foundation that would offer courses for about $600 each. The extra courses at the higher rate would help students who were not able to get into the full, in-demand classes. Those classes would be in addition to classes that are subsidized with state aid.
Deep budget cuts have forced the college to slash more than 1,000 classes since 2008. The remaining classes are filling up fast, forcing some students to wait a long time for the state-required classes. That's why some school officials say the plan may actually benefit everyone involved.
Still, some students say they are barely making ends meet, and there are concerns the state will make even more cuts if the college sets this precedent. Critics agree, saying the plan will create a caste system favoring wealthy students.
Last year, state lawmakers voted against a bill that would have allowed the higher-cost classes. The school has said its lawyers have concluded that the plan was legal.
More than $800 million has been taken out of community college budgets over the past three years, causing them to turn away about 200,000 students and drastically cut course offerings.
Several colleges also have inquired about starting programs similar to Santa Monica's. An Assembly bill last year would have allowed the higher-fee programs, but it did not pass. Fourteen 14 colleges and college districts supported the measure.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.