California’s three-part higher-education system is a disaster, writes Kevin Carey in The Chronicle of Higher Education. While the national media focuses on Berkeley’s problems — larger classes, fewer janitors — non-elite students are being denied a chance to pursue education and job training.
Every year, about half of California’s 400,000 high school graduates enroll in an in-state college: 120,000 start at a community college, 50,000 in the middle-tier California State University system and only 30,000 at a University of California campus. Most community college transfers go to the CSU system, not UC.
CSU was taking 55,000 community college transfers a year, notes Carey. But this chart shows transfers dropped by 2,000 two years ago, another 12,000 students in 2010.
It’s not that fewer community college students wanted to pursue a four-year degree, Carey writes. “What happened was that the system was buffeted by budget cuts and so began to clamp down on transfer admissions in all kinds of ways like restricting spring semester transfers and raising GPA requirements and changing geographic criteria for which students are allowed to enroll in which campuses.”
Students who’d been promised a chance to earn a bachelor’s degree were shut out.
What did they do instead? Nobody knows, exactly. But consider that transfers from California community colleges to the University of Phoenix have increased by over 300 percent in the last ten years.
Meanwhile, fewer students are in a position to transfer because community colleges have cut classes.
Community college enrollment had been rising steadily, driven by a growing population, rising college costs and “a gigantic terrible recession underway that was throwing people out of jobs by the millions,” Carey writes. Just when displaced workers and “economically vulnerable students” most needed access to job training and a chance to earn a degree, budget cuts caused enrollment in California community colleges to decline by over 400,000 students. That’s more than the total number of undergraduates enrolled in the entire California State University system.”
This is a catastrophe that will hurt California and the nation for many years to come, Carey writes.