When Californians go to the polls on Feb. 5, we hope they vote resoundingly to approve Proposition 92, the community college funding and constitutional amendment initiative.
In 2002, budget shortfalls forced the state’s community colleges to reduce class offerings and raise tuition. Prop 92 aims to ensure that such actions will not continue, so that community colleges can keep fulfilling their mission of providing higher education at low costs.
At Mills College, one-third of undergraduates are transfer students, many from community colleges. If community colleges did not provide low-cost, high quality education, would Mills be able to survive as a women’s college? Transfer students gain direction during their community college time, and many are able to save money in lieu of expensive Mills tuition.
Of course, low-cost higher education is equally important for those who will never transfer to Mills College or any other four-year institution. Plumbers, mechanics, cooks and secretaries can partially, if not completely, learn their trade at a community college.
Community colleges also serve California without regard to preparing people for a career. Language classes, yoga classes and wine tasting classes are but a few of the City College of San Francisco offerings, for example, that retirees, lawyers and high school dropouts take in order to simply enrich their lives, to make friends or to do something interesting.
Though critics may say that California’s current budget crunch does not allow for extra community college funding, they ignore the fact that by providing low-cost higher education, California’s workforce will be more productive, better skilled and will ultimately produce more tax revenue for the state.
The recurrent strain on California’s budget is not due to funding community colleges, but it may act as part of the solution to a complicated problem.
Public education has been, for many, a key to joining the middle class and lifting themselves out of poverty. Taking away that resource, or allowing it simply to slip out of reach of low-income people, will leave them without hope of bettering themselves. If we strive to create a society based upon equality and opportunity for all, then we must constantly put our money where our ideals are and support community colleges. By tabling the issue until California’s budget is perfectly balanced-if that time ever does come-it will be far too late.
We see community colleges as a long-term investment in California’s economic future and heartily endorse Proposition 92.