Community Colleges, Proposition 15, and Covid-19
Vote yes on Proposition 15, then push for more.
When Covid-19 first hit in March, the LA Times published this piece on the struggles many community college students faced in obtaining basics like food, internet, and shelter. The NY Times just published this piece that underscores the same basic struggles as well as an 8% drop in enrollment (compared to 2.5% overall) and the tragic fact that many of these former students may soon, or already, be part of our nation’s homeless population. Let’s take their dive a little deeper and get to know which professions this will impact and who may soon be sleeping on your city’s streets this winter.
My home consortium of California Community Colleges is the largest system of higher education in the country. According to their website:
- 70% of California’s nurses are trained at community colleges
- 80% of California’s police officers, firefighters, and EMTs are trained at community colleges
October raises the risk of the Santa Ana winds adding fuel to the flames already scouring the West coast. Not only have records already been set in this nightmare season, but climate change is only going to continue to exacerbate this yearly crisis. More money for community colleges directly correlates to an increased ability to combat these fires.
What makes community college funding even more pressing in the wake of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement is who typically attends these institutions. Most higher education is geared towards the ‘traditional student,’ which loosely translates to ‘affluent white people.’ Due to our nation’s history of slavery, institutionalized racism, and a general disregard for the working class, only certain populations used to receive an education. However, in 1947, President Truman set community colleges to provide higher education “for little or no tuition, to a diverse group of students, including women and ethnic minorities.”
At community colleges (according to the American Association of Community Colleges), the non-traditional student is the traditional student: over 50% of community college students do not identify as White; 29% are first-generation students; and 57% of Native American, 52% of Hispanic, and 42% of Black higher education students attend community colleges. In addition to this, higher education students who identify as veterans, single parents, non-native speakers of English, and people with disabilities are all more likely to attend community colleges. These are the populations facing the most challenges in accessing higher education and, unfortunately, tuition and student loans have increased while the median income has remained flat. There was a nearly 10% dip in enrollment from 2013–2017 and despite Proposition 15’s allocation of funds for these schools (in time), there is no reason to be encouraged about the future of community colleges.
If one thing is certain in these times, it’s that the multifaceted crisis we’re facing is highlighting how flawed and broken our system is. Proposition 15 is a starting point, not a solution.