California’s community colleges must develop new sources of revenue and find more cost-effective ways of delivering courses in order to bridge the gap between education supply and demand, says a new report by the Public Policy Institute of California.
The report, based on community-college reports and a survey last fall of more than 100 senior administrators throughout the system, found that unprecedented cuts in state support for community colleges from 2007 to 2012 had reduced access to education and sent enrollments plunging to a 20-year low. The cuts totaled $1.5-billion in 2011 dollars.
The passage last fall of Proposition 30, a ballot measure that raised certain taxes and headed off additional budget cuts, replaced some of the lost money—$210-million in 2012-13 alone. But “the size of the increase pales in comparison to the size of the cuts in recent budgets,” the report says.
Among the potential solutions weighed by the authors of the report are consolidating community-college districts, enlarging class sizes, providing more online courses, and offering alternative fee scenarios, but each has its limits and pitfalls.
“It is incumbent upon both the community colleges and the state to find creative ways to generate revenue and create the efficiencies that will enable the colleges to meet their most basic mission—providing skilled workers who can effectively participate in California’s vibrant and dynamic economy,” the report concludes.