– California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott said Dec. 13 that disinvesting in the 2.6 million students that attend the state’s community colleges is not the path that should be taken if lawmakers want an educated workforce to power California’s economic recovery. If the full mid-year cuts are applied, California’s lowest income and most vulnerable students will see even more reductions to support services.
In a media call Dec. 13, Chancellor Scott detailed the two levels of budget cuts facing the system and talked about where the continued underfunding has left the colleges. If state tax revenues fall more than $1 billion below projections the community colleges will be cut by $30 million and the per unit fees will go from $36 to $46 in summer 2012. If the shortfall is more than $2 billion, the system will suffer a $102 million cut.
In the event that either trigger is pulled, the Legislature and governor have indicated they will raise community colleges fees by an additional $10 per unit in the summer 2012. If this occurs, full-time students enrolled in 15 units will pay $1,380 annually in fees.
The cumulative effects of California’s disinvestment in higher education have been devastating for the community college system. Since the 2007-08 academic year, spending per student when adjusted for inflation declined by 10.6 percent, while per unit fees increased over the same period by nearly 80 percent.
“Most of our colleges prepared for the possibility of mid-year budget cuts and planned spring 2012 course sections accordingly,” Chancellor Scott said. “Where students are really going to feel the impact of the continuous reductions in state funding is in the area of student support services. Most of our campuses in the spring will have fewer part-time faculty, counselors, advisors, tutors, financial aid officers and others that are critical to helping our students accomplish their educational goals.”
Without adequate support and guidance, it will be much more difficult for many students to graduate, transfer,earn a degree or get job training in a timely manner, Scott said. Other impacts that will be felt by students include course section reductions ranging from 5 to 15 percent, longer wait lists, average class sizes increasing from 29 to 31 students, transfer and career centers that are open only during parts of the academic year, and reduced access and response time on accommodations requests for students with disabilities.
“Our state must come up with an honest solution to California’s budget problem,” Scott said. “We can’t keep slashing higher education budgets and raising fees to cover the shortfalls and close the budget gaps. California’s families and students can’t plan for college costs. Fee increases, if necessary, should be moderate, gradual and predictable – that’s the only way we’ll be able to salvage the state’s renowned higher education system and provide a trained workforce to fuel our economy.”
Chancellor Scott also discussed the importance of the California Community Colleges Student Success Task Force reform plan in the context of the system needing to do more with less in these tough economic times. If adopted by the board, the plan and recommendations will be shared with the Legislature by March 1, 2012. The focus of the recommendations, Scott said, is on basic skills, transfer pathways, certificate and degree attainment, and priority enrollment.
Advancements made by the California Community Colleges and the California State University systems in implementing the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act also were discussed. The transfer reform enables community college students who complete 60 transferrable units that include general education and major preparation courses, to obtain an Associate Degree for Transfer. Those students also will be guaranteed admittance to a California State University campus with junior standing.
Since December 2010, 16 majors for the Associate Degree for Transfer program have been jointly developed by the California Community Colleges and the California State University faculty and are open to students wanting to participate in the program. Under these majors, 235 degree programs have already been approved throughout the community college system and are available to students immediately. Some of the most popular degree programs are communication studies, mathematics, psychology, and sociology. Nine more majors will be available to students in early spring 2012.
The California Community Colleges is the largest system of higher education in the nation. It is composed of 72 districts and 112 colleges serving 2.6 million students per year. Community colleges supply workforce training, basic skills courses in English and math, and prepare students for transfer to four-year colleges and universities. The Chancellor’s Office provides leadership, advocacy and support under the direction of the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges.