Facing a possible $800 million funding cut, California’s community colleges could turn away 400,000 students in the fall, warns Chancellor Jack Scott.
Republicans have blocked Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to let voters decide whether to extend and increase taxes. Scott said he expects a 10 percent cut in the community college system’s total budget.
“This is a tremendous tragedy, and a very deep blow to the economy of California,” Scott said, describing community colleges as the “No. 1 workforce training institution” in the state.
California enrolls 2.75 million students. “That’s 140,000 fewer students than two years ago, when budget cuts forced the colleges to shed thousands of courses and instructors,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
Community college tuition is scheduled to rise from $26 a unit to $36 a unit, still low compared to other states.
Elsewhere, some states are cutting four-year universities more than community colleges, reports Inside Higher Ed.
In New York, for instance, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and state legislative leaders unveiled a budget compromise Sunday that includes significant cuts to public higher education — but not the 10 percent across-the-board cut that Cuomo had originally proposed. The budget deal restores $18.2 million to community colleges in the City and State University of New York systems, but no money to their four-year institutions.
In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett’s budget proposal cuts community colleges by 1 percent, while cutting 50 percent of state university funding.
There are states where community colleges are taking the brunt of the cuts. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer wants to cut community college funding by 50 percent, while cutting state’s universities by 20 percent.
Texas legislators have proposed closing four community colleges.
Debbie L. Sydow, president of Onondaga Community College, in New York, said governors tend to propose community college cuts, then legislators restore the money.
“Community colleges have been underfunded from the beginning,” Sydow said. “It’s in the normal course of business for us to operate efficiently…. I just think [the legislature] is finally starting to understand that community colleges are very nimble in preparing people for jobs and understand what we offer in terms of economic development.”
It’s important to preserve the “educational safety net,” said Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. “The sector that’s least able to look to tuition to make up for losses has to be a priority.”