Apr 1, 2013
California’s community colleges have fewer students than at any other time in the past 20 years, a new study by the Public Policy Institute of California found.
It’s not because there is less demand. The college-age population has been growing in California, and community colleges would have served 600,000 more students if the enrollment rate of the 2008-09 school year had continued. But community colleges have been turning away tens of thousands of students every year, because they have laid off teachers and eliminated classes.
That’s the result of budget cuts in the state’s education funding, which community colleges heavily depend on. Between 2006-07 and 2011-12, community-college funding fell from $6,700 per student to $5,100 per student, a 24 per cent drop. Taking into account the drop in enrollment, that corresponds to a 42 per cent cut in overall funding in five years!
College officials allow continuing students and students with better grades to sign up for classes first. So those being pushed out first are working-class people: workers who are trying to go back to school to advance their knowledge and skills, and young people from working-class neighborhoods who don’t get a good education in K-12.
Governor Jerry Brown now says he wants to send community colleges their funding at the end of the semester, not at the beginning – which would force college officials to cut even more classes. And Brown is pushing for charging students who have already completed 90 units $190 per unit instead of $46 – that is, four times more. That kind of fee increase would especially target workers who want to go back to school to learn a trade.
This is the same governor who pushed for, and won, a sales-tax increase from voters last November, with the promise that he would put more money into education.
Instead, Brown is leading the charge in this ruthless attack on working people. And the governor and his fellow Democrats can no longer blame the cuts on the Republicans either, since Democratic Governor Brown now also has a Democratic “super-majority” in the state legislature.