The Renegade Rip

Increase a ‘tax on students who can least afford it’

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Bakersfield College is facing the greatest fiscal threat since its inception nearly 90 years ago. The California budget crisis, with its series of impending budget reductions, does not bode well for our students, our employees or our community.

The state budget shortfall has already had serious consequences for BC and the Kern Community College District. This past spring, the college cut approximately $1.7 million from its budget. Now, “midyear adjustments” in funding would be effective almost immediately. Bakersfield College can expect to lose another $1.1 million. The next round comes from next year’s budget. Bakersfield College is facing a $6 million budget reduction if the governor’s proposed budget is approved for the 2003-04 school year. These reductions represent more than a 17 percent reduction in BC’s funding base over the course of 18 months.

On top of this reduction, the state is proposing to increase student enrollment fees from $11 to $24 per unit.

Community colleges will not receive any of this increase. It is not generally known that the colleges do not keep revenues from student fees, as do the other two California higher education systems. Instead, the money will be used by the state to fund other areas of its budget. In reality, this fee is a de facto tax on the students who can least afford it.

The results of these actions will be disastrous for students. Bakersfield College and other community colleges will offer fewer class sections and services with fewer faculty and staff members to perform the work. The Community College League of California predicts that more than 200,000 community college students will be denied access to classes statewide, more than the entire undergraduate enrollment of the University of California!

BC also will be forced to serve more students in the long run with less money. The national average funding for community colleges is approximately $6,500 per student. A year ago, it was $4,000 per student at BC. The impact of the proposed cuts will reduce community college funding per full-time equivalent student to the $3,300 level. At the same time, the state is proposing to increase the overall budgets of the UC and CSU systems.

The California community college system is quite simply the largest higher education system in the world and one of the most underfunded. It is a travesty that just when community colleges have become the entry point for more than 65 percent of higher education students and 60 percent of minority students, they are being asked to accept a disproportionate decline in funding.

Bakersfield College is doing all it can to reduce programs and services in a way that will have the least impact on students, but everyone at BC will feel the pain. That’s why our legislators must hear from each of us. It is time to send them direct messages to encourage their support of Bakersfield College and of the community college system throughout California.

Write your legislators. E-mail them. Tell them how the disproportionate cutting of community college funding is going to affect your education, your communities and families.

Remember that, as we gear up for another war and continue to fight terrorism here and abroad, real national security depends not on how many guns or divisions we possess or even the size of the gross domestic product. Real national security resides in the skills, abilities, education and contributions of a well-trained and committed work force.

Without the capacity to educate our people to the highest possible level, there is less security and prosperity for us all. If ever there was a need for students and a critically informed citizenry to express themselves about equity and justice in the educational system, this is it!

KEN MEIER, BC vice president of student learning

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Increase a ‘tax on students who can least afford it’