California budget cuts hit community colleges

Students on the campus of Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, Calif.

Kai Ryssdal: Congress may have solved its short-term budget problems, but outside the Washington beltway, 43 states are in the middle of their own negotiations. Almost all of them deep in the hole. Here in California, the deficit could be as much as $26 billion.

Talks have broken down. And community colleges are warning that cuts may force them to turn away 400,000 students. Marketplace's Jennifer Collins takes a look at what could mean for the state and the country.

Jennifer Collins: California's community college system is gigantic. It has nearly three million students. And back when Jean Ross took classes, it also had the best price -- free.

Jean Ross: It really is part of the California birthright to have those stepping stones to give you a leg up in the world.

Today Ross is the executive director of the California Budget Project, She says it's not just the students who got a leg up.

Ross: California's system of community colleges helped fuel the most dynamic industries in the country: the biotech industry, the high tech industries, our entertainment industries.

Many students enroll for technical training; others go onto four-year schools. David Baime is with the American Association of Community Colleges.

David Baime: Cuts of the magnitude that we're talking about, they are just going to result in just an outright loss of access for many individuals.

Baime says community colleges are facing cuts in Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and the list goes on. Those cuts could send students to high-cost schools and force them to take on more debt.

Baime: In other words, there aren't other good options for students.

California's also expected to raise tuition at its schools. But even with those increases, the state's community college system is still a bargain compared to the rest of the country -- that is, if you can get in.

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

About the author

Jennifer Collins is a reporter for the Marketplace portfolio of programs. She is based in Los Angeles, where she covers media, retail, the entertainment industry and the West Coast.
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Tax cuts are good from education? What about those that are faced with the challenges that suddenly arise when they are in the middle of a semester? Is what they are studying not important to not only them but to the growth of the society? The money is there for the people who want to make a better future for themselves and is based on income.

Reforming it to where the tax cut is going to lose alot of potential students that have a broader learning range and experience that you cannot learn from just a book and a classroom. Their backgrounds and encounters that lead upto college interaction and education is what makes the workplace and people in it so diverse.

Who say's driving a taxi isn't what you went to school for? Its a job while getting thru school to help you reach that goal that you are going to school for. Everyone needs to have an equal opportunity to make their education count. If they want to make budget cuts they should quit giving exemptions to the upper class and government officials.

The cuts are a good thing.

Maybe we will see some reform in the community college system.

Right now it is a very expensive post secondary playground. Less than 1/3 of students graduate. That is abysmal and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

It is time to reform it. Only students who are on track to graduate should be subsidized. The rest should pay full price.
Students who need remedial course should have to pass them before they can enroll in any other classes.

Obviously that isn't true because we have people with college degrees driving taxi's. Someone has to drive the taxi. Let's not tie up that labor for 4 years before it comes on line. We need to go back to more on the job training. But the more expensive we make it to have employees, the less likely that becomes.

Maybe I wouldn’t have to drive a taxi if I had a college degree.

We need that labor in the market working and lowering the cost of doing business in this state if we want to stay competitive. We don't need people with a college degree driving a taxi.

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