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Can Student Success Wait Until the State's Budget Crisis Subsides?

October 1, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

Can student success wait until after the state's budget crisis subsides?

We need your help and ideas.

As you likely know, California is facing a workforce preparation crisis that threatens our economic vitality. While the state made significant progress in college-degree attainment (workers with college degrees increased from 28% to 34% from 1990 to 2006), the respected Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) projects that the state will need 41% of its workforce to possess a degree by 2025, while only 35% will have attained a degree under the current trend.

Meanwhile, it is unlikely that community colleges will see any new money from the state in 2010-11, and funds will likely be extremely limited over the next several years. The new money from Washington, D.C. proposed by President Obama's American Graduation Initiative will help, but will backfill less than one-quarter of this year's budget cuts.

Closing the college attainment gap will require significant improvements in college success for historically underrepresented populations, particularly among Latinos, the fastest growing component of California's population.

Two of the largest issues identified by PPIC are low transfer rates from community colleges and success rates at the California State University. We can point fingers at many causes both related (funding, impacted four-year campuses, financial aid) and unrelated to our campuses (work, high school success, place-boundedness). However, while we must continue to articulate the needs to remedy those problems, we likely also have to find ways to improve even if the state's austerity continues.

In fact, while we often talk about the impact community colleges have on our economy, we also have to acknowledge that the health of our institutions are directly related to the economic health of the state.

This may require the remaking of the way we deliver services. The EOPS program, creditable for amazing success stories and transforming generations, serves 3.88% of the system's headcount students. How do we "scale-up" the best components of the program when an emerging majority of students may fit the traditional definition of students needing the additional services by the program, even during tight budget times?

Can we provide Nordstrom-level concierge services on a Kohl's budget?

We need your thoughts. You are the best and brightest minds in the system, and you know far better than those of us in Sacramento what needs to be done to serve students. Over the next few weeks, the system's Legislative Task Force will discuss what we should ask the Legislature to do next year. The California Community College Trustees board of the League has established a student success task force and also wants your ideas. We have also added many sessions to the  League's Annual Convention taking place November 18-21 to focus on these difficult issues.

What changes would you make to improve student success? Let me know by e-mailing  scottlay@ccleague.org. As with the previous times that you stepped up with ideas, they will not be attributed to any individual.

We will keep fighting in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. to get community college the necessary resources, but student success simply cannot wait for better budget days.

Scott Lay
President and Chief Executive Officer
Community College League of California
2017 O Street, Sacramento, California 95811
916.444.8641 . www.ccleague.org 

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Last Updated: 10/1/09