Editorial: External factors not considered with cuts to California colleges

For the past few years, money has been a primary topic of discussion for educational institutions. This is no surprise, seeing as California is currently in a $375 billion deficit, according to usdebtclock.org. Every sector of the state’s economy has been forced to look over its financial records and determine how and where money can be saved.

Educational systems have been doing the same as other systems: looking at ways to save money.

Now, legislators have forced community colleges to make numerous changes this semester in hopes of meeting this goal.

Tuition was raised $10 per unit, stricter policies have been enforced on students and fewer classes are being offered.

Now, students can only take a class three times before they are turned away and pushed out of a district. And the bill is retroactive, meaning that any past failures or dropped classes are already taken into consideration towards the limit.

Although these changes have been defended as a way to save the state money, there are externalities that are being unaccounted for.

An externality is an economic effect that results from an economic choice but is not reflected in market prices, according to the Free Online Dictionary. To go further, this means that there are effects that fail to show up in bank statements. Although a company may be paying only $1,000 each month to run a store, there could be extra costs or benefits that go unaccounted for. These could be smoke that neighbors have to breathe in or noise from traffic that wakes people up.

When changes are made at colleges in order to save money, there is harm being done to society that is being ignored. There are externalities not being considered.

Because of the higher class prices, some students will be forced to drop out. Because of the limit on how many times a student can take a class, some students will not be able to attain their degree. And because of fewer classes for students to take, there are fewer people receiving a higher education.

When politicians make multiple cuts to the educational system, they are simultaneously making cuts to our future. The goal, to spend money more wisely than previous generations, is an honorable goal and should not be abandoned. But what needs to be abandoned is the tunnel-visioned way of viewing the changes that are put into effect.

The amount of money the state has to spend on goods and services is important. But to act as if the state’s budget is the only thing that has changed recently would be ignorant of all of us.

Cuts are inevitably going to continue to be made, but when these cuts are made we shouldn’t forget a basic principle that an economics class teaches us – the money trail doesn’t capture everything.