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Community colleges are the solution, not the problem

POSTED January 21, 2011 10:07 p.m.

Community Colleges were not totally surprised by the Governor’s initial budget proposal.  We knew there would be some combination of cuts and increases to address California’s $25 billion deficit.  However, we did not anticipate the cuts to be as severe.

$1.4 billion of the Governor’s proposed cuts affect higher education, including the UC, CSU and community college systems.  The proposed cuts are very deep and will hurt our ability to serve students. They come at a time when we are dealing with statewide economic issues and more and more students are coming to our doors for services that we simply will not have the human or fiscal resources to meet if this current budget proposal is adopted.

The Governor’s proposal cuts UC and CSU each by $500 million and community colleges by $400 million.  These community college cuts assume the voters approve extended the temporary tax in the June election.   If that does not happen, then community colleges would require an additional $500 million cut, increasing to $900 million.  This would cripple us in our abilities to serve all the students that would be showing up at our doors.

Coupled with the cuts to UC and CSU, hundreds of thousands of students will be turned away from community colleges statewide.  This will be tragic, yet it is the reality if this current budget proposal is adopted.

While community colleges are prepared for their fair share of cuts, it doesn’t make sense to reduce funding and turn away students when community colleges are the solution, not the problem, during economic crises.It is well documented, when the economy is failing, unemployed workers are retraining, university enrollment caps and tuition costs are increasing, and tight family financial belts are squeezing.  The state depends on the community college system to be there in all these instances, offering workforce training, opportunities to work toward a four-year degree, and saving families money.  Community colleges are holding it all together.

What has been proposed is not fair to community colleges, nor reasonable with respect to accommodating the number of students that will want, need, or require our services.  The Yosemite Community College District (YCCD) is being placed in a position, like all the community colleges in the state, to continue to serve increasing numbers of students with diminishing resources — this simply cannot be done. We cannot continue to do “more with less.”

The $400 million cut to community colleges eliminates funding for 90,500 full-time students, or over 215,000 headcount students.  After enrollment growth, funding will be eliminated for 67,856 FTES (Full-Time Equivalent Students) or 161,141 students.

Locally, the resulting scenarios would be devastating, considering community colleges continue to experience record demand.

Community colleges serve as open access institutions of higher education.  We do not deny admission. We have been forced to be leaner in recent years, and as a result the focus is primarily on Transfer, Career & Technical Education, and Basic Skills.  California’s communities cannot afford to leave its community colleges with the only option to further cut course offerings.  This will be the third consecutive year that the state has reduced the budget for community colleges and the third consecutive year that the YCCD will have to reduce its budget. 

YCCD will continue to work towards serving our students with excellence.  MJC has been serving the community for 90 years, and Columbia College for over 40 years — and as a district we have many good years to come.  The budget discussions have just begun.  I will be working collectively with CEO’s statewide, advocating for a fair and reasonable budget.  On January 23-24, the Community College League of California will host their Annual Legislative Conference.  Together with several YCCD trustees, we will be meeting with our local legislators.  The work that community colleges do is part of the solution — not, the problem and this is the message that I will be taking to Sacramento.

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