Community colleges: Funding fix needed

Glendale Community College near Los Angeles. (Community college photo)

An equitable approach to student funding for California’s community colleges is just days away from becoming law or wishful thinking for fairness.

The California Community Colleges serve 2.1 million students and provide high-quality, affordable access to Californians to achieve their transfer, career education and basic skills goals.

The current approach fails to consider a number of obstacles many students must overcome in order to attend college, let alone finish a credential or degree.

Although our colleges have done admirable work providing broad access, too few students who enter the system ultimately achieve their educational goals.Our colleges are committed to providing more equitable opportunities. Today, though, the funding formula does not align financial incentives to those overarching goals.

Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to revamp the way funding for the state’s 114 community colleges is determined, which is smart since the current practice of funding schools in various regions of the state based almost entirely on enrollment does not do the areas with the highest need students any good.

The current approach fails to consider a number of obstacles many students must overcome in order to attend college, let alone finish a credential or degree.  The current ineffective system leaves too many low-income and under-served Californians behind.

By prioritizing low-income and underrepresented students and recognizing student success, the proposed equitable approach allows colleges to combine enrollment figures with additional resources to truly help low-income and underserved students meet their educational goals.  Colleges will have the resources to improve the focus on student success and outcomes rather than simply enrolling students.

While funding formulas by nature are never easy to explain, this student-centered approach is just common sense, plain and simple.

Latino and Black students in particular need a more equitable approach to help keep them on track toward their own finish line in education. There is an alarming gap in achievement among students of color. This must stop now and proper funding mechanisms can help.

The governor’s budget revision provides an Equity Allocation that offers colleges a way to ensure their students are set up for success and progressing at a good pace so they can get into the workplace with the skills and knowledge they need.

Every Californian deserves access to a community college that is designed to help them achieve their goals. A strategic approach to finance is one key part of making that happen, which is why I am joining my colleagues and statewide leaders in business, education, and equity to urge the Legislature to support this critical proposal.

Ed’s Note: Paul Granillo is president and CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership.


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