Editorial: Governor’s budget proposal won’t work for community colleges

Editorial%3A+Governor%27s+budget+proposal+won%E2%80%99t+work+for+community+colleges

Courtesy of CA.Gov

Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his 2013 budget proposal on Jan. 10 including changes in community college funding.

In his 2013-14 budget, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed the idea to fund community colleges based on the amount of students that complete their courses.

As it stands, 90 percent of state funding for community colleges comes from how many students are enrolled in a course about a month into the semester.

Brown’s plan would change all of that, redirecting the money that was lost in attendance towards tutoring, counseling and other college services in a plan that would be phased in over five years.

While the proposal seems great on paper, this plan targets the wrong demographic.

If the idea is to increase efficiency in higher education and outcome-based incentives, then the state should not punish a school for things they have no control over.

It is great that the state wants to promote accountability, but community college students often drop courses for reasons other than how they are performing.

Community colleges have always been a place that students can go if they don’t quite fit the mold of university-bound peers.

As the state’s own Student Success Task Force said in one of their reports, “community colleges provide instruction each year to over 2.6 million students who make up the most diverse student population in the nation.”

So why punish institutions that provide a place for that diverse crowd to grow and spread their wings?

Community colleges are home to students with children, full-time jobs and other circumstances that are out of the control of professors and college administrations.

The same rules that are applied to California state colleges and Universities of California simply do not work when it comes to community colleges.

In an analysis of the proposal, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s office wrote that the “governor’s census-data proposal could create potential unintended consequences in the classroom, such as grade inflation or reductions in course rigor.”

In other words, Brown’s proposal puts unintended pressure on the professors to keep students in their class by giving them better grades and making the course easier.

Teachers should not have to worry about losing money on their paycheck over circumstances they cannot control.

The proposal also looks at community college from an ivory tower. It does not take into consideration the real-world challenges that are faced at community colleges.

Community college is just different from its counterparts in the CSU and UC systems.

Its role has always been seen as a universal pathway to higher education for nontraditional students.

The proposal is way out of place and takes a spectator’s view of community colleges. The legislature needs to do the right thing, and keep this proposal from hurting those 2.6 million students that depend on those colleges being there.