By Jason KUROSU
While budget cuts continue to plague California’s universities, the state’s community colleges face similar obstacles, including a potential $800 million reduction in funding (approximately 10% of the budget). The result of such a deep cut could be a denial of up to 400,000 prospective students to California community colleges.
With per unit fees already increasing from $26 to $36 and the likelihood of Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed June tax extensions making the ballot decreasing by the day, the vast cut scenario is becoming closer to a grim reality.
In a recent telephone news conference, California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott addressed the funding situation saying, “Students seeking to transfer to Cal State and the University of California will be denied access. Those students unable to get into Cal State and UC and who desperately need to get into a community college will be denied, as well as those who are out of work and are coming to us for retraining. We will do the best we can, but we will not be serving the needs of students or meeting our education goals.”
In addition to decreasing enrollment, community colleges will reduce their available courses, something current community college students are already familiar with. In fall 2010, the Pearson Foundation Community College Student Survey showed that almost twice as many California community college students (47%) were unable to enroll in courses because they were full than community college students in the rest of the country (28%). Students taking the survey cited course availability as a key to academic success.
Locally, Glendale Community College has battled a budget cut that could be anywhere from $6.7 million and $10.7 million by eliminating the 2012 six-week winter session. The upcoming summer session is also in jeopardy, amongst other things, if the college is to meet its goal of cutting around 18% of its budget.
Pasadena Community College has fared relatively well by comparison, but still may need to adjust its current plans based on whatever comes out of Sacramento.
“We’ve been very lucky,” said PCC Public Relations Director Juan Gutierrez. PCC’s goal is to cut $9.6 million through retirement incentives, increased efficiency and various other ways of either trimming costs or increasing revenue.
“We’ve been doing everything in our power to keep the cuts as far away from the classroom as possible and we haven’t had to restrict access to students because we’ve been fiscally prudent,” said Gutierrez.
But decreasing the number of available classes is not out of the realm of possibility. The $9.6 million cut is already an increase on what was originally a $5.5 million cut, the increase necessitated by the failed June tax extension talks.
Whatever the future holds, it is not one for which current and prospective students are holding out the biggest hopes. It’s more like they’re hoping for the lesser of two evils.