by Nick Strobel (submitted March 28, 2011, published April 9, 2011)
Return to Budget Committee home
Fact-checked by Greg Chamberlain, Amber Chiang, and Tom Burke before submission but any opinions expressed here-in are those of Nick Strobel only and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bakersfield College or the Kern Community College District.
More budget cuts are coming to an already stressed California education system and Bakersfield College will feel it too in the coming years (yes, that's plural). My purpose in this article is not to depress you but to give you as honest a view as I can of what is coming in the services the college will be able to provide in preparing our community and workforce for a future economy where the critical-analytical thinking and adaptability of a college education will be needed. If we know what's coming, we have a chance of preparing.
As I write this I have John Cox's front-page article about Kern County's economy from two Sundays ago (March 20th) next to my chair. One of the key points made was that increased "higher educational attainment" is going to be even more crucial to Kern County's economy. Also in the article David Lyman notes the link between education levels and personal income. For more about that take a look at the "Education Pays!" graphic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm and I have charted the trends over the past four years at www.astronomynotes.com/educationpays3.htm. As part of the plans to balance its budget, California will be making it even more difficult to raise those personal income levels with some major cuts to its education spending.
Whenever the economy in California takes a turn for the worse, the community colleges in particular see a boost in enrollment as people turn to them for re-training. Some state legislators have begun to realize the important role that community colleges play in re-charging the economy. However, at the same time those enrollments are increasing, funding is being cut back so the community colleges get a double-whammy: needing to educate more students with less money because, unlike the CSUs and UCs, community colleges cannot raise their fees to plug the budget holes. And unlike the K12 system, the state puts a cap on the number of community college students it will pay for---any students over a given amount are "paid for" by the community colleges. Now, it is part of the ethos of our community colleges to educate whoever comes to us and I know that Bakersfield College, at least, has for several years been educating several hundred more students every year than for what the state pays us. Even before California's economy tanked, there was talk of a "tidal wave II" of students in this decade moving through the Kern Community College District, of which Bakersfield College is a part. I guess that's a "triple-whammy" the community colleges in our district are having to deal with and we're slowly coming to terms with the fact that we're simply not able to meet all of the demand.
The budget scenarios that Bakersfield College is planning for have such cheerful sounding names like "bad", "worst case", and "doomsday". Under the "bad" scenario, Kern Community College District will receive a net cut of $5.377 million from its current state-paid cap. The net cut is because the students will pay an additional $10/unit to partially offset the decreased state funding. At least this time the money generated from the tuition hike will go back to the community colleges unlike some past hikes in recent memory that went into the state's general fund for other non-education uses. The "bad" scenario assumes that the Governor's January proposal of cuts passes AND the tax extensions were passed on the June ballot. Well, as I write this, it looks like the tax extensions will not even be put on the ballot for the voters to decide, so that's out. Also, in typical California government fashion of rosy income projections, the "bad" scenario assumes that all of the currently enrolled students will pay the $10/unit increase. History has shown repeatedly that when tuition is raised, the enrollment drops, so we'll get the full cut with less of a backfill from the tuition hike. Multiply Bakersfield College's share of the cut by about 2/3rds and it means that BC will enroll 1677 less students next year.
With the tax extension not even making it to the ballot, we're automatically under the "worst case" or "doomsday" scenarios. The "worst case" scenario assumes the tax extension fails and Prop. 98 is funded at the minimum required level. KCCD will receive a net cut of $9.456 million from its current state-paid cap. For Bakersfield College that means 2931 less students next year. The state has suspended Prop 98 guarantees in the past without too much fuss raised by those outside K14 and it looks like the state will do so again so we're now seriously looking at the "doomsday" scenario.
The "doomsday" scenario assumes no tax extensions and suspension of Prop 98 so KCCD receives a net cut of $14.925 million from its current state-paid cap. For Bakersfield College that means about 5360 less students next year. The scenario is called "doomsday" not only because of the huge loss of opportunities for our city's citizens to improve their lot (and pay more in taxes), but also because it will cause some other community college districts in our state to close and the more healthy community college districts like ours to pick up part or all of their load. That will add to the stress on our own district.
Now, I know that other parts of the state budget are being cut too and that there is going to be pain in other state-funded institutions. I wanted to give you some more tangible facts of something I am much more familiar with so that you have a clearer picture in mind as we prepare for the future. Those from other state-funded institutions can share from their perspective to flesh out the picture some more. On a positive note, Bakersfield College and its sister colleges in the Kern Community College District WILL survive these next very painful years. Bakersfield College will be celebrating its centennial in 2013. We've been through plenty of hardships in the past and we've adapted and grown through the talent and intelligence of great people at the college. We've also weathered the past storms through the support and care of the communities of Bakersfield and the surrounding areas and I believe this time will be no different.
This page was last updated: April 9, 2011
Contact for this page: Nick Strobel