California: 1 million graduates by 2020

California’s community colleges must produce one million graduates with degrees or certificates by 2020 to meet President Obama’s college-completion goal.  The Commission on the Future, which includes chancellors, trustees and professors, will set the one-million graduate goal at the Community College League of California conference this week. Enrolling and graduating more Latinos will be critical to meeting the goal.

Colleges would need to nearly triple the number of students who graduate with a certificate or an associate degree each year. On average, each college would need to increase annual completions to 3,500 from 1,200.

California faces a $25.4 billion budget deficit, according to new estimates. With the state unable to increasing higher education funding, community colleges should raise fees (tuition) to get students off wait lists and into class, editorializes the San Jose Mercury News.

Although it sounds counterintuitive, access to our 112 community colleges — the third leg of the state’s system of higher education — could actually be improved by increasing student fees, which are by far the lowest in the nation. Raising fees from $26 to $40 per unit, the level recommended by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, would help the colleges restore services and classes, allowing them to educate more people and to do a better job serving the students they already have.

The national average for full-time community college fees is about $2,700, nearly four times what California students pay. Charging $40 per unit would bring an estimated $150 million in new revenue, but students would still be paying less than half the national average.

Fees are waived for students who can’t afford to pay. One third of the state’s community college students pay nothing.

In theory, California’s public colleges and universities are tuition free, which is why charges are called “fees.” There’s a move to start using “tuition.”