College Crisis in California

It seems like whenever a state has a fiscal crisis, education funds are at the top of the list for cuts. The budget crunch in California–which is being repeated all across the nation–has ‘necessitated’ large-scale cuts in funding for community colleges just at a time when one of the largest classes in CA history is graduating.

The report [by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education] criticizes the state for abdicating its responsibility to prepare for the new tidal wave of new college students — more than 700,000 high school graduates bound for college from last year to the end of the decade. Most are Latino, and many will be the first in their families to attend college. And although three-fourths of them are headed for community colleges, those systems are not currently funded to serve their existing base of students, the report concludes.

“We saw these students coming; everyone knew they were there,” said Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

Yet increased demand and shrinking state support have resulted in an estimated 175,000 students forgoing community colleges in recent years and an estimated 25,000 eligible students being turned away from California State University and University of California systems for the coming year, according to the report.

“Multiply that by another five or six years and you will have an educational and economic catastrophe for California,” Callan said.

The good news is that a coalition of business, labor and community groups are beginning to grapple with the problem that the State government has ignored, although nothing they’ve proposed will solve the problem by itself. But the question is: why is this happening?

It’s happening, at least in part, because California was raped mercilessly by the Texas energy industry, who stole–that’s the only word for it–$$billions$$ from CA’s treasury by creating phony shortages to justify massive increases in their prices–as much as $250/kilowatt-hr. That crime all but emptied CA’s coffers at a time when other factors were putting enormous pressure on the budget. CA was deeply in the red and cuts had to be made.

This is an over-simplified picture, I realize, but there’s no getting around the fact that much less harsh cuts would have had to be made were it not for the embezzlement by Texas’ energy corps. That money, despite CA’s slam-dunk lawsuit, will likely never be recovered. So who is paying for this theft? The ones who usually pay for it–kids.

Community colleges are magnets for poor, low-income, and minority kids who want to make their lives better because they’re affordable. Without the community colleges, these kids are cut off from a chance for a brighter future. Is the fact that they are poor and often minority the reason this problem has been ignored until now? Is this a class and race war all at once? I’d hate to think these kids were the ones the state legislature voted to dump on because Latinos don’t count….


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