Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

State Budget Cuts Wreaking Havoc on California Community Colleges

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

State Budget Cuts Wreaking Havoc on California Community Colleges

Article excerpt

Community college students attending Long Beach City College in Long Beach, Calif., who were planning to major in auto body technology, interior design, real estate, welding, diesel mechanics, or aviation maintenance and five other disciplines will have to malie adjustments, When California's Legislature cut $7,5 million in funding from its budget in 2013, those majors were eliminated or transferred in lo oilier disciplines.

How are budget cuts affecting Long Beach City College and other community colleges in California, where many schools have large Latino student populations? How do Long Beach City College's superintendent-president, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, and other experts view die situation?

Like all public community colleges in California, Long Beach City College has faced a series of dramatic budget cuts over the last few years. In fact, its budget has been slashed by $10.9 million over the last three years, To stay within budget, the college laid off 12 managers and 139 administrative and support jobs. In fact, the persistent culs have contributed to shrinking its student body by 3,000 full-time students.

Of its 24,653 students enrolled in spring 2012, 44 percent were Latino: 20 percent, White; 15 percent, African-American; 15 percent, AsianAmerican; 3 percent, multiracial; and 2 percent, unknown. Of its student body, 42 percent were pursuing bachelor's degrees; 22 percent, vocational degrees; 6 percent, associate degrees; and the remainder was undecided. Nearly 30 percent of its students are 30 years or older, and it attracts 49 percent men and 51 percent women.

J'aul Feist, vice chancellor for communications at California Community Colleges' Chancellor's Office, acknowledges that the budget cuts since 2009 have been "devastating" for junior college students. He says California's twoyear colleges have faced a 17 percent drop in enrollment and were forced to cancel diousands of course sections. Since 2008-09, public community colleges throughout California have lost $809 million or 12 percent of its budget over the entire system. In 2008, about 2.9 million students attended community colleges, but by 2012-13, that number dwindled to 2,4 million, a loss of a staggering 500,000 undergraduates.

The reduced budgets in California community colleges have been "unprecedented in the length of the durations of these cuts," explained Nancy Slmlock, professor at California State University and director of die Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy. Moreover she said that California instituted some of the lowest tuition fees in the states. Despite the loss of classes, the state has done an effective job of minimizing the damage, protecting its core mission and eliminating low-enrollment courses, she said.

While many of these cutbacks were necessary, Sbulock said that some of the severity of the could have been lessened or averted. "Higher education [in California] hasn't been a for decades. Tliis state has been complaand has rested on its reputation of having higher education," she said.

Oakley acknowledges that die cuts have "sigreduced access to our students,'' The had to lay off staff including faculty; adminstaff, secretaries, custodial and support "Layoffs have touched every employee including full-term faculty," he said.

"Every time we have a major recession in we cut services in response. It's a Oakley stated. As die demand for comcollege education has intensified, the cuttranspired, Timing could not have been he suggested. Demand is rising because has graduated its largest high school in years, faced a large number of returnmilitary veterans and has been retraining of laid-off employees.

Faced with these budget cuts, the college had to diminish programs and re-deploy resources. different disciplines including auto body aviation maintenance, welding, real diesel mechanics and carpentry were But Oakley said most of these majors be subsumed by other programs. For examwelding will be incorporated into mechanimaintenance, a larger program. …

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