San Francisco City College and the other 109 community colleges across the state are the engines that fuel local economies, and the severe budget constraints facing the schools should worry policy makers, said Jack Scott, chancellor of California Community Colleges.
Slashing the budget to City College is “a real problem because this is where people get retrained and get out there and work and give a shot into the arm of the economy,” Scott said.
Scott spoke to a group of about 100 students, staff, faculty, and supporters of City College at the Monday evening Yerba Buena Gardens kickoff of Community College Week.
As California’s unemployment rate continues to rise and four-year universities continue to turn away students, the demand for community colleges continues to increase. The California Community College system saw a 4.9 percent increase in student enrollment compared to the previous academic year.
Yet their resources are being cut back.
City College, for instance, has cut counseling hours, implemented hiring freezes and, this year, has cut some 800 classes, of which nearly 400 will be dropped in the spring. An estimated 85 percent of summer courses will be dropped as well.
Don Q. Griffin, City College chancellor, has said the school is experiencing a $20 million deficit and will likely face another tough year for 2010-11.
“We have plenty of customers but not enough money,” Scott said.
The gathering was part of a series of efforts of City College students, staff and faculty to make their voices heard to lawmakers. Students and staff have a candlelight vigil planned for Friday.
Lance Izumi, president of the Board of Governors, said there’s a lot of uncertainty among students about their ability to get into courses or finish programs.
The number of classes dropped will hinder students’ ability to graduate on time. So will the “career technical classes to re-train and get people back to work as soon as possible,” Izumi said.
“It’s shocking that state government has cut the funds for an educational institution that so many students need today,” said Tom White, whose taught English as a Second Language courses for 34 years. “We need the support from the government and we’re not getting it.”
White, who teaches in the downtown campus, said teachers who have taught for seven semesters or less are not receiving teaching hours for the spring.
Students, faculty and staff gathered to speak against the drastic cuts in the City College budget.
“What we may lack in the way of little of light, we can really get a lot of heat,” Scott told the crowd who cheered.
“We’ve got to make our voices heard,” said Scott. “Community colleges are the best bang for the buck. We don’t have huge research institutions. We educate students on a day-to-day basis.”