LETTER TO THE EDITOR: State budget cuts equal a shrinking BC
March 28, 2012
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Kern Community College District is building a two-year budget that will be as much as $17.8 million less than last year. That’s roughly equivalent to one of KCCD’s colleges! Impending California budget reductions assure that Kern Community College District institutions—Bakersfield College, Porterville College and Cerro Coso Community College — will all be reduced next year. As a result, you will see Bakersfield College shrink.
When we talk about shrinking Bakersfield College, that means losing access to opportunities for transfer education, workforce development and basic skills instruction for our sons, daughters, neighbors and friends. Cuts will result in fewer classes, fewer students, fewer employees, and fewer opportunities for us all. Let’s put the bottom line right up front: Bakersfield College will be doing less with less.
Action in Sacramento taking its toll
Statewide budget cuts over the past few years have brought severe reductions to California community colleges. Just two months ago, community colleges lost $313 million in budget cuts. California community colleges were subject to another $102 million in mid-year “trigger” cuts. Recently, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office announced that community college funding will take another $149 million hit because the state’s estimates on enrollment fees and property tax revenues were overinflated. And more potential cuts are on the horizon.
This litany of budget cuts has already taken its toll on Kern Community College District. In the past four years, the number of classes open to students has dropped 22%. This year, for example, Bakersfield College offered some 800 fewer class sections than were available to students in 2008. That’s equivalent to turning away nearly 2,500 full-time Bakersfield College students. Because of state budget cuts, thousands of Kern Community College District students will not be transferring to four-year colleges, enrolled in nursing degrees or landing jobs as child care providers, emergency medical technicians or firefighters.
Meanwhile, we expect little help from the proposed state tax initiatives. The measures are billed as a way to increase funds for education. At best, however, they only offset some of the reductions to community colleges. Whether or not voters pass a tax increase, Bakersfield College and Kern Community College District will have less money to educate students than we did last year.
Next steps underway
Because Bakersfield College is critical to the economic infrastructure and workforce development needs of this community, Kern Community College District must take a strategic, reasoned approach to budget reductions. Bakersfield College’s employees and students are now engaged in critical conversations to answer key questions: What is our core mission? What are the current and future needs of our communities? What systems, programs and services are essential to help students succeed? The answers to these questions will guide the difficult decisions we must make to shrink our college to the size dictated by decreased state funding for education.
Will every current program and service at Bakersfield College be intact when the dust settles? Clearly, the answer is no. However, our goal is to provide required pathways for students to complete general education, transfer education and workforce training.
We ask that you join us in sending a powerful message to our legislators about the impact of the state budget on our local community colleges. Write or call state legislators today. Ask them to guarantee property tax and fee revenues to California community colleges. Ask them to protect the future of our community college students, thus securing the future of our communities.
Robert D. Jensen, Interim President
Sandra V. Serrano, Chancellor
Kern Community College District