Commentary: Throw out the cookie cutter and approve community college funding formula for equity

610 200 Dr. Kindred Murillo

(Photo Credit: John Walker/Wikimedia Commons)

Update – June 8: Governor Brown and the California Legislature announced a budget deal that would include a community college funding formula that ties some funds to student success, a reform discussed by the author.

A remarkable opportunity to provide at long-last an equitable way to fund our community colleges and their students most in need currently sits on the desks of California elected state representatives awaiting their approval. The time to move forward and create equity in our community colleges is now.

Gov. Jerry Brown put forth a thoughtful formula to accomplish this much-needed task in his May Revision of the 2018-19 state budget. It considers input from community college leaders and those working on the front lines of the system as well as from those who benefit from it. Brown is trying to revamp the way funding for the state’s 114 community colleges is determined, which is smart since the current practice of funding schools in various regions of the state based on enrollment does not do the areas with the highest need students any good.

The California Community Colleges serve 2.1 million students and provide high-quality, affordable access so that Californians can achieve their transfer, career education and basic skills goals.

Southwestern College is an important part of this state system, and it is the only public institution of higher education in southern San Diego County. With a Hispanic population topping 67 percent, we know the cookie-cutter approach simply does not work across the board. 

Although our colleges have done admirable work providing broad access, too few students who enter the system ultimately achieve their educational goals. In fact, half of all students fail to complete a certificate or degree after six years, with the rates for students of color even more concerning—only four in ten black and Latino students complete their goals.

The enrollment-based approach fails to consider a number of obstacles many adult learners in our region must overcome in order to attend college, let alone finish a credential or degree.

By prioritizing low-income and underrepresented students and recognizing student success, the proposed equitable approach allows colleges to combine enrollment figures with additional resources to truly help low-income and underserved students meet their educational goals. Colleges will be empowered to focus on student success and outcomes rather than simply getting students enrolled.

Gov. Brown's proposed student-centered funding formula corrects the current ineffective system which simply leaves too many low-income and under-served people out.

Latino and black students in particular need a more customized approach to help keep them on track toward their own finish line in education. There is an alarming gap in achievement among people of color, because many are forgotten after they enroll and they just drop out. This must stop now and proper funding mechanisms can help.

Gov. Brown’s May budget revision provides an Equity Allocation that offers colleges a way to ensure their students are set up for success and progressing at a good pace so they can get into the workplace with the skills and knowledge they need.

It is time to move forward. The Governor’s May Revision largely adopts recommendations provided by Chancellor Eloy Oakley based on consideration of the perspectives of those within our community colleges and those affected by its outcomes – its students.             

Dr. Kindred Murillo is superintendent/president of Southwestern College in Chula Vista.


Dr. Kindred Murillo

All stories by: Dr. Kindred Murillo