Community colleges are “a gateway for millions of Americans to good jobs and a better life,” said President Obama in the fall. But the gateway is narrowing, reports the Washington Post.
Even as community college enrollments have climbed during the recession, 35 states cut higher education budgets last year, and 31 will cut them for next year, according to survey data from the National Association of State Budget Officers. Those shortages are expected to worsen next year when federal stimulus money that had plugged holes in state budgets is no longer available.
In California, with a budget cut of 8 percent across the board, the community colleges turned away 140,000 students last year. In Colorado, the waiting lists for nursing programs at some of the state’s community colleges have grown to as long as 3.5 years. In May, New York’s community colleges stopped accepting applications for the fall semester and added students instead to a waiting list.
At the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, more than 2,450 students applied for a biology class that’s a prerequisite for most health-care degrees; 950 were admitted.
The college now turns away students from every class in biology, the physical sciences and math, said Sally Johnston, dean of the School of Science and Mathematics at the College of Southern Nevada.
“Unfortunately, many say the heck with it and walk away,” President Michael D. Richards said.
The gambling and construction industries have laid off workers in Las Vegas. Many have turned to community colleges hoping to qualify in health-care fields, accounting and technical careers.
Anthony Yurkonis, 27, earned $75,000 a year as a construction worker before he was laid off a year ago. He’s studying finance and accounting at College of Southern Nevada. He sees other laid-off construction workers who “don’t even know how to work a computer. They don’t know what a mouse is.”
College administrators don’t cackle with glee when they hire adjuncts or cut programs to cope with funding constraints, writes Community College Dean, citing the Post story.