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Governor Newsom Proposes $1 Billion Cut to California Community Colleges

Last Thursday, May 14, California Governor Newsom announced 2020-21 budget revisions, including cuts to higher education, given the projected $54 billion loss of state revenues. Although he proposes a $376 million cut to the University of California (UC) system affecting 285,000 students and a $404 million cut affecting 500,000 California State University (CSU) students, the $1 Billion cut to California’s 115 Community Colleges will affect the greatest number of students—2.1 million. 

According to California’s Master Plan for Higher Education, community colleges “primary mission is to advance California’s economic growth and global competitiveness through education, training, and services that contribute to continuous work force improvement” where anyone can enroll. 

The community colleges serve a diverse group of people. Students seeking transfer to a four year university, yet pay a lesser cost for the first few years to gain confidence in their aptitude, enroll in community colleges. Additionally, community colleges serve students needing remediation after high school, especially for those from poor or working class families and others seeking vocational training and certification in order to be fully employed in an occupation that will directly contribute to the betterment of their community. Thus, the $1 Billion proposed funding reduction to community colleges will impact a wide swath of Californians seeking higher education for greater economic prosperity. 

Governor Newsom’s proposed funding cut will likely reduce the number of faculty, thus limiting the total number of classes that can be offered and potentially reducing classroom seats. Then, greater numbers of students will likely be unable to have ready access to higher education, contrary to what’s stated in the community college mission, just as in the years following The Great Financial Crisis of 2009. In 2013, 53,000 students at just the three Sacramento, CA area community colleges were on waitlists seeking seats in classes. Imagine the enrollment difficulties for students in larger populated areas, like Los Angeles, where nine campuses serve more than 230,500 students. 

Furthermore, support staff, including transfer counselors and advisors, may also be reduced given the lack of funding. Thus, the approximately 40% of all community college students who transfer to four year colleges every year may experience even greater lapses in advising. Currently, year after year, transfer students share frustrations about not having assigned counselors, so often make decisions with conflicting advice from two or more counselors. Thus, students may delay or not transfer at all.

Since over half of all California State University (CSU) grads and almost a third of all University of California (UC) grads transferred from California Community Colleges, according to the latest statistics in 2017-18 in the table above, the entire California higher education system will likely be impacted with a reduced flow of new students in the coming years. With less students, CSU and UC campuses will have less revenue from tuition, adding to growing fiscal deficits, creating additional complications. 

Furthermore, many recent high school grads and even beginning college students are reportedly substituting community college, rather than attending four year universities, questioning if four year online courses, without a residential college experience, is as valuable as the four year tuition prices. Thus, community college administrators may be challenged to serve a growing demand while their “supply” of education is further limited given $1 Billion less in state funding. 

How community college administrators may react to the simultaneous influx of new students, a phenomena experienced after The Great Financial Crisis of 2009, and reduction in state funding is yet to be seen. However, California legislators may want to consider the long term social and economic impacts of underfunding the state’s largest public higher education system, California Community Colleges, potentially undermining the next generation’s participation in the workforce thus California’s place as the fifth largest state economy. 

Featured Image Courtesy of Los Angeles Times, Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press


Since 2003, Jill Yoshikawa, EdM , a UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, has helped clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. Contact her at (916) 769-6092 or jill@creativemarbles.com