With Big Budget Cuts At 4-Year Schools, Will Students Flock To Less Expensive Community Colleges?
Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.
The recently approved 2020-21 state budget spared community colleges from the direct cuts imposed on the University of California and California State University systems. Together, those systems could see their budgets cuts by $1 billion.
But while the community colleges won't lose funding this year, they will still face cost-cutting measures down the line. Under the same plan approved for K-12 schools, community colleges can continue at their current spending levels -- but repayments from the state to cover that spending will be deferred. (Here's a good guide to how that works from the website EdSource.)
Being able to continue spending provides a lifeline for community colleges. "I would rather have deferrals than having budget cuts because at least I know the money's going to come at some point," said Keith Curry, president of Compton College.
But deferred spending isn't a cure-all. Community college administrators are scrambling to figure out how to keep cash flowing to pay for employees and programs until state funds arrive. Campuses are not run by a central, statewide administration so, in this case, some colleges will be in a better position to weather the deferred payments.
DON'T MISS ANY L.A. CORONAVIRUS NEWS
Get our daily newsletters for the latest on COVID-19 and other top local headlines.
Curry said Compton College has a reserve fund amounting to 30% of its budget. Unlike some other community colleges, they won't have to rely on municipal bond debt to fill the gap.
"We've been really managing our reserve for the last couple years to ensure that when this time comes, we're ready," Curry said.
The goal is to protect services such as counseling andthe campus food bank. Curry is trying to increase enrollment by getting the word out that his campus is protecting student services and is affordable. He said enrollment is up this summer and he hopes fall enrollment will be higher than last year's.
A LESS OPTIMISTIC PICTURE
At Cypress College, administrators' predictions aren't as rosy as Compton's.
"We are anticipating to be able to [match] our enrollment from the prior year," said Alexander Porter, vice president of administrative services at Cypress College. It'll be an achievement, he said, to keep that enrollment steady given how much COVID-19 has upended the economy and instruction.
Porter said he expects about 8% of state funding for his campus' budget to come later in the year. He said the college hasn't decided how to bridge that gap at the start of the fall semester, but he's confident the campus' requirement to have 5% of its budget in reserve will be enough.
A priority is to protect a program called the Student Equity and Achievement Program, which helps lower-income and non-white students with counseling and other support.
"We're very proud of the investments that we made there to increase our graduation rates and those success measures associated with getting to a four-year college," Porter said.
Stable enrollments lead to stable budgets as state funding follows students, and state and federal financial aid fills campus coffers. So Porter and Curry, along with administrators at other colleges, are busy trying to convince potential students that community college is an affordable higher education option and that, despite the economic crisis and online instruction, it's a good bet for people to reach their career goals.
A STUDENT'S CHOICE
Josue Menjivar, who graduated this year from Roybal High School in Los Angeles, said he's put off his plans to enroll at a four-year university and will instead attend Pasadena City College in the fall.
"I want to [transfer] to Virginia Tech," he said. "I want to study architecture."
He said online instruction will challenge him to stay focused. So will raising money to pay for tuition and living expenses.
"I was thinking about applying for economic help... scholarships and stuff like that," Menijar said. But since the state is going through a tough economic time, he doesn't know how much Pasadena City College will be able to help him.
The college is taking steps to help students such as Menjivar, said PCC spokesman Alexander Boekelheide. He said the campus recently raised its reserves to 18% and is considering taking out a loan to make up for this years' deferred funding gap. Summer enrollment is up at PCC by more than 2,000 students.
Say goodbye to the old FAFSA and hello to what we all hope is a simpler, friendlier version.
LAUSD Reaches Deal With Support Staff On Salary Increases, Other Benefits, After Three-Day Strike EndsThe union that represents school support staff in Los Angeles Unified School District has reached a tentative agreement with district leadership to increase wages by 30% and provide health care to more members.
Pressed by the state legislature, the California State University system is making it easier for students who want to transfer in from community colleges.
From diaper changing to arithmetic, special education assistants help students navigate the school day. Families say their support is irreplaceable.
In Southern California, Long Beach City College is bucking national trends.
Here's how the California Lottery allocates the money that doesn't go to the winner.