California’s community colleges might be just a little less accessible to students in the very near future.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a $332.2 million mid-year budget cut to all California community colleges as part of a budget cut package he announced two weeks ago. This newly proposed reduction, along with a $290 million cut enacted earlier this year, brings the total to a potential $622.2 million cut from California community colleges.
In addition to budget cuts, the state Legislative Analyst’s Office has proposed raising community college tuition 50 percent by 2009. Fees would go from $20 per unit to $26 per unit starting in January.
The increases in fees and decrease in government funding puts California’s 110 community colleges in a tough position as more and more students choose to go to community colleges right after high school, community college administrators say. Across the state, community colleges are seeing overall enrollment growths of roughly 10 percent, according to a press release from the community college system.
“I think what we’re seeing now are effects of increasing costs at four-year universities – public and private – combined with a very difficult economy,” says Los Rios District spokesperson Susie Williams.
But the demands of higher enrollment aren’t being met with more funding.
“While the governor’s proposing a 10 percent cut of funding, we’re looking at a 8 to 10 percent enrollment increase in students,” said Art Pimentel, spokesperson of Woodland Community College.
The majority of students at Woodland Community College are preparing to transfer to UC Davis, Pimentel said.
The exact consequences of short funding are still tentative.
“It’s a little early to tell right now what exactly is going to happen and we’re waiting for more information from the governor’s office,” said Miriam Root, spokesperson for Yuba Community College. “I know whatever it is we decide, we always have the students in mind.“
For many colleges, it is likely that programs, classes and services previously offered will be in jeopardy.
“We would basically see a decrease in the overall number of courses that would be offered,” Pimentel said.
Even if programs are not cut, it still might take students longer to graduate because they might not get the classes they want due to fewer class sections. This, along with an increase in fees, may ultimately affect the number of students who the community college system can serve.
“We’re estimating that with the governor’s proposed cuts, and if fee increases were to occur as proposed by the legislative analysts‘ office, then we would lose around 262,000 students statewide,” said Williams, the Los Rios spokesperson. “Our share of that in the Sacramento area would be an estimated 11,000 students who would be losing access to education.“
Being the largest educational system in the world, community colleges in California educate roughly 2.7 million students annually, according to the press release.
“This escalating series of cuts, especially in education, are going to harm a generation or two of Californians across the board,” said James Robertson, professor of history at San Mateo Community College. “It’ll have an impact in terms of economic opportunity, source for advancement, and the ability to move upwards, especially for families whose numbers are attending college for the first time.“
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BY THE NUMBERS”
2.7 million – number of students served by California community colleges each year
73 percent – proportion of all higher education students in California enrolled at community colleges
66 percent – proportion of California State University graduates who transfer from community colleges
33 percent – proportion of University of California graduates who transfer from community colleges
Community colleges also educate roughly 71 percent of California nurses, 81 percent of California firefighters, law enforcement officers, and emergency medical technicians.
Source: California Community Colleges system office