California, USA - California community college system expects to receive 1.7 percent increase proposed by Gov. Schwarzenegger, said Chris Yatooma. Yatooma director of fiscal planning for the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office in Sacramento.
Community colleges get about two-thirds of their money from the state budget, and the rest from property taxes and student fees. State lawmakers have yet to pass a new budget this summer, but the The 1.7 percent increase - about $95 million - would pay for roughly 19,000 new students statewide. However, the state's 110 community colleges are expecting about 32,000 new students during the 2008-09 school year.
"I'm praying to God that the radiology technician job is available," said Lawrence Petu. Petu started an accelerated program at West Hills College last August to become a technician - someone who helps with medical technology after being licensed by the state.
Because community colleges save students time and money, they are attractive to many unique students, experts said. Community colleges train 80% of the country's police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians and more than half of its new nurses and health care workers. They are the go-to destinations for displaced workers and immigrants seeking language and cultural skills. Community colleges are where people most often go when they need to brush up on math or English before pursuing a college degree. And they have become increasingly attractive to families who can't afford to send their kids to a four-year school.
Community college leaders insist that their institutions, created to serve their local communities, have grown even more important on a larger stage. Leaders like Yatooma are advocating for more support. “If the USA wants to keep pace with other industrialized nations, studies show, more of its workforce will need to be educated, including those who have traditionally been left behind by higher education: low-income students, working adults, underserved minorities, immigrants, and those who have local responsibilities they can not avoid.”
“Community colleges are intended to be for anyone who wants an education ought to be able to get one. Chaldeans and other immigrants are the populations they are supposed to serve,” Petu says.
Petu is correct, but as a policy concern, community colleges "are often invisible," says a report released in February by a national commission of community college leaders. Collectively, they survive on budgets that average about one-fifth of those of their four-year public counterparts.
In 2000-2001, the latest year for which Education Department data are available, the nation spent $140 billion on four-year public universities and just under $30 billion for public two-year colleges. That ratio has remained relatively stable over the years.
Yet for the last decade, enrollments have been increasing faster at two-year schools than four-year schools. Today, community colleges enroll 6.5 million degree-seeking students, or nearly half (47%) of all college undergraduates. And no one documents the expanding demand nationwide for non-credit courses such as English as a Second Language and workforce training.
An estimated 5 million students are enrolled in those kinds of programs, says the American Association of Community Colleges, a Washington non-profit that gets data from its 1,200 member schools.
A wider audience appears to be acknowledging the role two-year colleges play in today's economy. The association has lobbied members of Congress — 205 in the House and 31 in the Senate — who are crafting legislation to help two-year colleges compete for more federal funds.
The Bush administration was the first to have a deputy assistant Education secretary for community colleges. And presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain have discussed plans to help community colleges.