By Frank X. Moraga
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories on the state of affairs in the California community college system. This story addresses the problems facing Latino students. Next month’s story will focus on possible solutions.
State budget cuts, capped enrollment make community college today a challenge
ANALYSIS: Mayo de la Rocha has seen the cuts in community colleges in California firsthand. As the chair of the Social Science Department and a professor at Ventura College, he has seen the angst growing among his students, who have to squeeze a dwindling number of classes between their work hours.
“It’s making it really difficult. It’s frustrating, and forcing students to adjust their schedule,” he said. “You’ve got to be organized to take classes, go to work and then come back later. It’s making it hard. We don’t have the amount of classes … we used to have.”
All things to all people. That seemed to be the unofficial motto for the California community college system.
If you were a student fresh out of high school and you weren’t ready or financially able to attend a university, the local community college was the place to go to earn your general education transfer units, explore a couple of career paths at the affordable price of $11 per unit (back in 2002-03) or just find yourself.
Veterans who completed their military service could fill out a few forms and start receiving the GI Bill aid they needed to begin their dream of a higher education. University graduates could receive the re-entry training they needed for a new career, while others could take a college class or two and dabble in ceramics, painting or recreational sports or lifelong learning. These were just a few of the many alternatives available to students at what used to be known as junior college. Ah, the good ole days.
Now, it’s time for that hard reality. This isn’t your daddy’s or grandma’s community college.
The state government, which provides the funding for community colleges in California, has been hit by crippling debt after years of spend now, save later policies, lack of property tax revenue due to Proposition 13 and investment losses during the Great Recession. Meanwhile, voters were more likely to approve bond measures for new buildings than teacher salaries.
As a result, enrollment has been capped, a whole alphabet soup of elective classes have been gutted from the budget, and students were left scrambling to get the general education courses they need to transfer to a university. Last year, more than 137,000 would-be community college students statewide couldn’t get into any courses.
The $11 per unit class. Forget about it. In 2011 that jumped to $26 per unit, climbing to $36 this past semester, with fees scheduled to go up to $46 starting this summer.
Paying more for the opportunity to get less. That is where we are in the world of California community colleges.
Teachers and staff have been laid off, with a variety of programs cut. At the Ventura County Community College District, which includes Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges, the district’s board voted in April to cut 60 jobs, eliminate cafeteria services at the three colleges and save itself about $2.6 million, according to a story in the Ventura County Star.
And Latino students, especially on the west side of Ventura County where their population numbers are greatest, seem to be the ones being hurt the most by the cuts…
Finish reading Bilingual report: Colleges fight to survive time of change