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LAO: The Billion Dollar Community College Cut - Feb. 15, 2011



February 15, 2011

Dear Colleagues,

You are probably sick of hearing the bad news from me. Frankly, I'm sick of writing it as well.

Yesterday, a memorandum from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office was leaked to the media, which outlines how to solve the state's budget problem without tax increases. As expected, it is a sobering report.

For community colleges, the memo suggests an additional $585 million in cuts, on top of the $400 million included in the governor's January budget. That's nearly a billion dollar cut.

The LAO recommends the following steps to extract "savings" in community colleges:

  • Impose a 90-unit cap on each student's taxpayer-subsidized credits ($250 million)
  • Increase community college fees from $26/unit to $66/unit ($170 million)
  • Eliminate state subsidy for intercollegiate athletics ($55 million)

Some criticize the report, which was requested by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg as an effort to justify the governor's request that the Legislature place the tax measures on the ballot. That indeed may have been the motivation, but it's the only other $26.6 billion plan that has been produced.

What gets me about this proposal and even the governor's proposal is that the pain is mostly directed at students. As I said a couple of weeks ago at the Legislative Conference, if we take a 15% cut on top of the 2009-10 cut of 8%, we can't simply assess the pain on our students. It is incumbent on us to ask what a $5.2 billion system should look like--including tough issues like compensation and benefits, the number of colleges, and whether our mission has grown too broad.

If we are asked to take the billion dollar cut, we would have a system that is still larger than 23 state budgets, but it would and probably should be a structurally different system.


Scott Lay
President and Chief Executive Officer
Orange Coast College '94

Community College League of California
2017 O Street, Sacramento, California 95811
916.444.8641 . www.ccleague.org

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Last Updated: 2/15/11