State Community Colleges Deserve More Support – Marin Independent Journal

The California Community Colleges alumni list reads like a “Who’s Who” of public service, economic success, social mobility and ethnic diversity.

They include legendary Apple CEO Steve Jobs, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Chief Justice Tani Catil-Sakauye, NASA engineer Adam Steltzner, author Amy Tan, union leader Dolores Huerta and baseball player and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson.

While the list of California Community Colleges alumni is long and illustrious, it does not begin to measure the system’s far-reaching contributions to our state’s economy and resilience. Community colleges play a central role in training nurses, firefighters, police officers, welders, auto mechanics, aircraft mechanics and construction workers in California.

They provide significant scale to four-year institutions, and they team up with industry and the workforce to create innovative skills-building initiatives that support opportunities in a variety of fields – from automotive technology and from advanced manufacturing to healthcare and web development.

With more than 2.1 million students on 116 campuses, the California Community Colleges network is the largest higher education system in the United States. Almost three-quarters of students come from diverse backgrounds, including traditionally underserved ethnic communities. Those who graduate from community colleges improve their chances of finding good jobs: Occupations that typically require associate’s degrees pay an average annual salary of nearly $ 53,000, compared with $ 36,100 for workers who do not complete their degrees. secondary studies.

Despite increased support from the governor and the legislature, California Community Colleges have gone several years without their fair share of public funds from Proposition 98, the voter-approved initiative that sets a minimum level of funding for K- schools. 12 and community colleges. While this year’s budget set records for funding higher education, resources per student at California community colleges have long been far too low, even as their costs are rising, often faster than inflation. which makes it more difficult for colleges to maintain existing programs.

The financial health of the entire public higher education system is essential for the future of our state. At current rates, only about a third of current ninth graders in California will graduate with a bachelor’s degree, and a lower college completion rate among Latino, black, and low-income Californians is exacerbating the state’s economic divide.

California Community Colleges are a critical rung in the achievement ladder for students of all walks of life. Beginning in high school, community colleges offer college courses for students, and students who enrolled in those courses in high school were more likely to enroll in college or university after high school: 81% vs. 62% of all Californian high school students.

For those who attend California Community Colleges, nearly 80,000 transfer to University of California and California State University campuses each year, and nearly 30% of UC graduates and more than half of graduates. CSU graduates started at a community college. The transfer role is especially important for low-income students, first-generation students, and students from under-represented groups, as they are more likely to begin their graduate studies at a community college.

State leaders have recognized that transfers open the door to bachelor’s degrees for a more diverse student body, and California community colleges are closing the achievement gap for students of color in their vision of success. It has already achieved its 2022 goal of a 20% increase in the number of students receiving degrees, and its Vision for Success plan calls for a 35% increase in the number of students transferring to a UC or CSU campus.

These efforts have won the support of lawmakers in Sacramento. Governor Gavin Newsom recently enacted two measures – Assembly Bill 928 and Assembly Bill 1111 – that will encourage more community college students to move to four-year institutions.

It is now up to state leaders to ensure that California community colleges continue to have the resources to provide the important rungs of success to California students, and that UC and CSU have the capacity to accept graduates. students wishing to transfer.

Dick Ackerman, former senator and state assembly member, and Mel Levine, former U.S. congressman and state assembly member, are co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education. Distributed by

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