California community college students are pleased with the return of some summer classes (Photo Credit: Tulane PR )
For California’s community colleges, the last five years have not been kind. Their budgets have been gutted, their classrooms impacted, and the overall morale has sloped steeply downward.
“We’ve been offering about 75 percent less summer courses since 2008,” Superintendent-President of Long Beach Community College Eloy Oakley said. “We’re still clawing our way back out of a huge hole.”
The hole, at long last, may be shrinking. California’s community colleges are now beginning to re-add their high-demand summer courses as the schools’ budgets feel the Proposition 30 boost.
“It does appear that some of our community colleges are beginning to open up some new courses in the summer, and I think that’s in direct relation to some of the increased revenue that we’re getting related to Prop 30,” Oakley said. As a whole, the state’s community colleges cut their summer classes by 60 percent to fill the fiscal gaps created by a $1.5 billion drop in funding since the start of the economic crisis.
While this is a positive sign for the state, Oakley is careful to stress that by no means are California’s colleges out of the budgetary woods yet. “That’s all a good thing,” he said. “However, as is the case with Long Beach, we are increasing our summer offerings but by a very small percentage – 10-15 percent increase. It’s still a drop in the bucket.”
Yet, California’s community college students that have experienced the impact of summer class cuts firsthand see huge positives in bringing at least some of them back. Chris Herrera, a 23-year-old currently attending Los Angeles Valley College, is a community college veteran. “I went to Glendale Community College and they had all the cuts, so I went to Pasadena City College, and then I went back to Valley College,” Herrera said. “I’ve done that several times.”
The need to bounce from school to school avoiding cuts isn’t unique to his own situation, Herrera says, nor is the very real impact of the disparity in summer classes. “Last year when they cut a bunch of class for summer, I wasn’t able to take the necessary classes on time to finish up, especially math and English,” he said. “I think a lot of people depend on summer classes, especially for math and English because a lot of people fail math. They rely on summer classes quite a bit to make it up.”
Additional summer courses will help 21-year-old PCC student Erin Mooney as well. “Oh yeah, they will definitely help,” she said. “I’m transferring in about a year and getting [general education class] out of the way over the summer will be super helpful.”
It’s the demise of critical general education courses from summer and winter sessions that have damaged students’ transferring prospects the most. But, for everyone involved in California’s community colleges, from students to administrators, the hope is that this change is a sign of things to come and not just a one-off of support. “We’re going to continue to work to increase access to classes during the summer,” Oakley said. “We’re looking forward to that day the state can provide us that access we had four or five years ago.”