State Funding vs. Student Demand

Been there, done that… might be the best way to sum up the cyclical budget dance California Community Colleges play year after year. While this time is more severe and the funding future looks very bleak, we are busy adjusting to the current crisis. The situation we are facing could best be reflected in a two arrow graph.

The Student Demand Arrow is in a sharp incline – we have more students flowing in from CSU and UC cuts and soaring fees, unemployed workers returning for retraining, and students staying longer because they can’t get all their classes when they need them or are having to work extra hours because of financial hardship. If you walk the campus with me you will see class after class with lines out the door and while faculty will try to help many of these desperate students, the demand is far greater than their resources, and overcrowding hurts everyone.

The State Resource/Funding Arrow is in steep decline.  We have all read about the state budget crisis – every state agency is facing significant cuts. In our case, the state actually took money back from last year’s approved budget and then made significant funding reductions this year, with more cuts expected mid-year.  Already this college has had to reduce its budget by $1.8 million (3.6%) and we are now engaged with identifying an additional $1.5 million in reductions this year to ease the pain anticipated for next year.

No doubt these economic challenges will translate into longer lines in Admissions, Counseling, Assessment, Financial Aid, and other important student services. There will be fewer classes – the state has already eliminated funding for growth and slashed an additional 3.8% of funding for classes this year – that translates to 3,893 fewer seats.  When teachers graciously add students, which we encourage them to do, the demands for essential student support services increases and delays in tutoring, disabled student services, and open labs like the Student Success Center and library are overcrowded and further impede their progress.

Behind all this doom and gloom, there is still a deep commitment to the importance of what we do here. We understand that community colleges are an important part of the California solution. This state is dependent on a well-educated workforce.  We are part of the heart that pumps life into this economy, providing students with second and third chances at transfer preparation and career advancement. Our teaching faculty is prepared to address the needs of a diverse student body with a variety of educational goals and with varying levels of preparation. They are student-focused and committed to their success. We have a variety of student support services staffed with people who care deeply about the importance of the work we do for our students. Their spirit, their kindness, and their can-do attitude will help the college weather this perfect storm.