Systemwide cuts to community colleges have morphed into two-year pre-universities
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 17:05
Assess. Reduce. Repeat.
For four years, the California community college system has been redesigned — creating a fundamental shift in its mission — as a result of budget cuts and statewide policy changes.
The grip of Sacramento lawmakers continues to squeeze and reform community colleges into a diluted representation of its service area and a miniature, two-year state college system.
Further cuts next year will extend a half-decade of statewide funding cuts to higher education and unscheduled, erratic fee and tuition increases at California public colleges and universities.
The $10-per-unit increase starting this summer — jumping fees from $36 to $46 per unit — will be the third cost increase since spring 2007, when the price was lowered to $20 per unit for three semesters.
But as the costs to students and demand for courses increase during the economic recession, the number of sections available each semester decreases.
Since fall 2002, the peak of enrollment and course offerings at Contra Costa College, the number of sections available (as of fall 2012) has been cut by 25 percent and the budget and enrollment by 16.5 percent.
The state allocates funding for its community colleges by their Full-Time Equivalent Student ratios. One FTES equals one student taking 12 units. In fall 2002, the CCC FTES was 3,207.4.
Next semester, however, the state will allocate funding for 2,677 FTES.
Trimming the budget causes administrators and managers to decide what to keep and what is expendable in relation to the college’s mission.
What have been saved are courses required for transferring to a University of California or California State University campus.
Meanwhile, many courses geared toward lifelong learning and vocational programs have been eliminated, despite being core to the college’s mission in the community.
A victim of the continuous and continuing budget reductions, the dental assisting department will be put on hiatus — the first step in program elimination — in the fall for the first time since it was created 62 years ago with the college’s founding.
A $302,000 grant saved the program from elimination this college year, but the department’s two-person staff could not find additional funding to continue it in 2012-13.
Choosing to disregard its responsibilities to lifelong learning and vocational training, the college is being forced to ignore its responsibilities to the community.
Reducing the available accessibility to community colleges and other higher education institutions, state lawmakers will increase the Achievement Gap and exaggerate the opportunities available to California’s haves and have-nots.
Since the downturn of the economy in 2008, demand for re-education and job training has increased, but availability has decreased.
We need the two balanced and growing together to end this cycle and for the college to get back to serving the needs of its community — not the state.