Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Budget Pressures Leading to Students Being Closed out of Community College Courses

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Budget Pressures Leading to Students Being Closed out of Community College Courses

Article excerpt

Cutbacks in community college budgets are leading to a reduction in classes, which is having an adverse effect on students, particularly Latinos.

A Harris interactive online Community College Survey oí more than 1,400 U.S. students attending two-year colleges, sponsored by the Pearson Foundation in 2011, revealed that 32 percent of students were unable to enroll in certain classes because courses had been cancelled due to budget cuts.

But minority students face an even tougher time. In fact, 55 percent of Latino students said difficulty enrolling in classes was discouraging them from attending two-year colleges. Of those surveyed, 15 percent of students said budget cutbacks at community colleges were making diem reconsider pursuing higher education.

Nearly one in three community college students is being closed out of classes - a "serious threat to access," says Walter Bumphus, president of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). He points out that enrollment in community- colleges from 2008 to 2010 increased by more tiian a mdlion students. Because community colleges are playing an increasing role as an entry point to higher education, two-year colleges need to expand course offerings, not reduce them, to meet the needs of a growing population and help create jobs as alternatives to stagnant unemployment.

Budget cuts are happening at the worst possible time for community colleges. "Access for students is in our UNA, and now we're doing a better job of focusing on student success," Bumphus adds.

Mark Nicker, president of the Pearson Foundation, noted, "Community colleges are pivotal in the Obama administration's plans to increase the number of U.S. college graduates."

Having 55 percent of Lalino students closed out of community colleges classes, which is affecting their ability to stay in college, presents serious ramifications for the American economy. It affects the ability of Latino students "to move into the middle class. And it has serious implications for achieving a qualified workforce," Bumphus says. It's ironic that this community college budgetary shortfall is happening at the same time that American businesses are clamoring diat they require a workforce with requisite skills to stay competitive in a global marketplace.

Moreover, closing out students doesn't just affect two-year colleges but has consequences for die graduation rates and success levels of four-year colleges. When community college budgets are reduced, '"you cut off many students' ability to transfer, Many students start in community college, have success and then transfer into four year colleges or obtain certification to train diem for new jobs," asserts Bumphus. Cutting off access to community colleges can only heighten die unemployment rate of minority and other students.

Eloy Oakley, the president of Long Beach City College, lias seen the effect; of state budgel cuts on enrollment at his college over the last three years. The college has an enrollment of 2ii,568 students, of whom 41 percent are Hispanic; 22 percent, White; 15 percent, African-American; and 16 percent, Asian-American. Its budget has been cut 2 1 percent overall from 2008 to 2011, and given inflation, dial entails about 10 percent reductions annually.

"Our enrollment has been lowered to 1999-2000 levels," Oakley says. The college has a waiting list of more than a thousand students for many core courses. At the same time, local California high schools are graduating classes with the largest number of students in the last decade. 'It's almost a perfect storm," he says.

Minority students are feeling the pain more than majority students, Oakley suggests. Many are required to take pre-collegiate or remedial courses, and those courses are cut the most. In fact, 90 percent of Long Beach City College's incoming students take at least one remedial course, and Oakley notes that most two-year colleges in California have 70 percent to 90 percent of students enrolled in developmental classes. …

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