January 25, 2008

Editorial:

Proposition 92 fiscally irresponsible

Proposition 92
Community Colleges. Funding. Governance. Fees
Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute - Majority Approval Required

Proposition 92’s main argument for passage is that they will reduce per college admission fees from $20 per unit to $15 per unit, who can be against lowering college fees?

But hold on a minute before you rush to vote on this proposition; let’s take a closer look at what is really going on.

There are three main points to the proposition. The first is student fees, which is the main selling point. The second is the Funding Level where the devil is in the details, and the Governance of Community Colleges.

As noted, the per unit cost would be lowered to $15 from the present day $20 and could not be raised by the Legislature without a two-thirds votes and signed by the Governor. The trade off is that this proposition wants to change the way the colleges are funded.

It should be noted that Community College fees are already the lowest in the nation and that nearly a quarter of students have their fees waived based on income, and student fees are only a small portion of the college’s funding. Primary funding comes from the State’s General Fund, local taxes, and grants.

Presently the community colleges are linked with the K-12 education system. Their funding comes from the General Fund and property taxes which are based upon enrollment figures from the K-12 population. Community college enrollment is not a part of this calculation. This proposition wants the Community Colleges to separate itself from the K-12 enrollment figures, while maintaining the General Fund and property tax funding and have the enrollment figure be based on either the state’s 17-21 population or the 22-25 age population which ever is higher that year. It would not be based on actually enrollment.

It is predicted that the K-12 population in the near future will decline while the young adult population will grow. This means that cost of education will continue to climb while the pool of students shrinks.

Over the long run this will have a huge impact on the State budget. The Legislative Analyst projects that the new formula would require the state to spend approximately $300 million more for K-14 education per year from 2007-08 through 2009-10. To come up with the extra $300 million per year, in tight economic times like we are now facing, other programs would have to be cut.

Basically what the proponents of this measure are trying to insure is unabated economic growth, weather or not there is a need.

The third leg of the proposal is to have the Community Colleges formally recognized and defined within the State Constitution. Upon till now the colleges have been recognized through various laws by the Legislature and recognized by the State Constitution through various financial contexts but never defined. This Proposition would establish it as a part of the State Constitution and expand the Board of Governors. The proposition would also give the Board of Governors full power over how to spend funds appropriated for its administrative expenses in the annual budget. This portion of the proposition we have no problem with.

Based on the fact that the colleges are trying to lock-in their economic growth through a constitutional amendment, irrelevant of need, is financially irresponsible. If the proponents really want to unburden students of the cost of going to a community college they should do something about the cost of books which affects all students.

La Prensa San Diego urges a “NO” vote on Proposition 92

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