California colleges get good news on funding

After years of higher education cuts, California Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal gives the state’s colleges and universities “good news for the first time in years,” reports the San Jose Mercury News.

The CSU and UC systems would each receive an additional $125 million, thanks to the passage of two tax initiatives. Community colleges would receive $197 million more in general-purpose funds next year. That means “community colleges can begin to make room for some of the hundreds of thousands of students who have been shut out of our system due to recent funding cuts,” Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris said in a news release.

The governor’s plan also calls for expanding online education, transferring adult education from K-12 districts to community colleges and funding community colleges based on student enrollment at the end of the term, not the beginning.

The California Community College Online Initiative plans to create a centralized “virtual campus” to provide online courses.  In addition, the chancellor’s office will expand options for students to earn college credit by passing a “challenge” exam.

Students would be held accountable too, writes Kathy Baron on EdSource.

A significant, and likely controversial, piece of the budget proposal would cap state subsidized community college classes at 90 units. Beyond that, students would have to pay full freight – from $127 to $190 per credit based on a quarter or semester calendar.

The latest figures, from the 2009-10 academic year, show that 4.7 percent, or more than 117,000 students, exceeded 90 units.

Student leaders oppose the idea. There’s also controversy about shifting control of adult education.

Community colleges will get an additional $300 million to fund the adult education takeover plus $15.7 million for an apprenticeship program. Adult ed would provide basic skills, English as a Second Language, citizenship classes and vocational training, but no enrichment classes for older adults or parent education.

“Any moving or shifting of adult ed to community colleges is a serious concern,” said Dawn Koepke, a lobbyist for the California Council for Adult Education. “It doesn’t make sense at all. Adult ed is tied to K-12 because we’re talking about basic skills and access. The infrastructure is already in K-12.”

Funding community colleges based on end-of-term enrollment would be phased in over five years. Lost funding would be used to fund student support services.