Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Community Colleges and the California State Universities

In last Wednesday's NY Times article, "California Universities Will Cut Enrollment Unless State Increases Money," California State University System Chancellor Charles B. Reed had some tough words for the legislature's proposed cuts to a system already operating at $215M below its operational needs.
Particularly important to note is that the already-strained system saw a 20 percent increase in applications this year, with 36 percent of those coming from students hoping to transfer from community colleges.
Community colleges serve a hugely diverse population of less traditional students, with fewer economic resources, who rely on state schools to finish their degree goals.
Some demographic considerations (according to the Lumina Foundation):
  • Forty-six percent are 25 or older, and 32 percent are at least 30 years old. The average age is 29.
  • Fifty-eight percent are women.
  • Twenty-nine percent have annual household incomes less than $20,000.
  • Eighty-five percent balance studies with full-time or part-time work. More than half (54 percent) have full-time jobs.
  • Thirty percent of those who work full time also attend classes full time (12 or more credit hours). Among students 30-39 years old, the rate climbs to 41 percent.
  • Minority students constitute 30 percent of community college enrollments nationally, with Latino students representing the fastest-growing racial/ethnic population.
So, what do all these budget cuts mean to the transferring community colleges students? While their applications will receive prioritized consideration by admissions staffs, there may not be enough funding for them to actually attend once accepted. As Chancellor Reed noted "student demand is increasing, while state funding is declining."
Students coming from community colleges may find themselves shut out of some of the most popular Cal State campuses because of tougher admissions requirements and earlier application deadlines.
For an increasing number of students, community colleges are not the end to the educational road, but a stepping stone to loftier educational goals. Though their path may be more circuitous, their contribution to state universities is no less substantial and they must be provided the resources they need to achieve the goals for which they've worked so hard.

By-line: This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of online state community colleges. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24@gmail.com

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