In CA, Taking the "Community" Out of Community College
For many, the term “community college” means just that — a place where community members have an opportunity to further their education, gain vocational skills or just simply enrich their knowledge.
That idea was challenged recently, however, when members of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors met to discuss a proposal that would stop students from repeating coursework in any subject area unless their grades are low, according to a recent article in the Sacramento Bee.
If the proposal passes, the changes will take affect in Fall 2013. With California’s community colleges under severe financial restraints, Chancellor Jack Scott believes the proposal will allow more spaces to open up for students seeking classes in English, math or other core subject areas.
With budget cuts continuously looming, officials are saying that community colleges can no longer support “a heavily subsidized outlet for artistic or physical activity.”
While I never attended a community college for core academic classes, I have utilized their low-cost classes to take a dance class in my spare time. I did repeat the class for “practice” purposes, as others have also done, and have even considered going back recently to further hone my dancing skills — I guess I won’t be doing that any time soon.
Despite the economic climate, the proposed changes will cause these schools to lose sight of what it means to be a “community” college. They should serve as a stepping-stone to a four-year university or provide training for a vocational or specialized trade, but they should also exist to serve all people in the community who choose to continue learning, whether it be in art, history or recreation.
The only exceptions to the proposed rule change would be for athletes who need physical fitness classes for their sports, as well as those students majoring in performing arts who are required to take an ensemble class each semester, the Sac Bee article stated.
Such stipulations exclude a vast majority of those who attend community college. While I do strongly believe in keeping services, instructors and classes in tact, this action will only leave seniors and those looking to further their skills for a second career, without an affordable option.
So many are used to seeing community colleges as a way to get a cheap, but quality education. Unfortunately, this just isn’t feasible anymore. One simple solution might be to make the recreational or arts classes more than one unit — to increase the fees paid. This way, people could take the classes, and the colleges will get paid more for it.
The chancellor recommends those wanting to repeat art or physical fitness classes to look elsewhere. From the Bee:
“For someone taking tennis lessons at a community college,” Scott said, “their alternative is to go to a tennis club somewhere and pay a fee. Our job is not to furnish the cheapest form of recreation.”
Community colleges really are the only place for people of all ages and demographics to be able to continue their education. We should try our best to preserve that tradition.
Stephanie Minaisan is a fellow with New America Media's Youth Education Fellowship. The fellowship is a six-month long program for youth reporters aged 16-24 on education reporting. It is sponsored by the California Education Policy Fund.