Budget Official: Fate of Community Colleges Fragile

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The drain of education dollars from California's community colleges has raised the specter of campus closures or receiverships, a state college budget officer says.

The comment came as the local colleges look at the uncertain fate of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure on the November ballot. A defeat there could become a knockout blow for some campuses that have been absorbing cuts and dipping into reserve funds over the past three years.

All of California's interlocked higher education systems — the University of California, the California State University and the community colleges — have been hit hard by the state's fiscal problems, but community colleges perhaps most of all. Tasked with job training, remedial education and transferring students to universities, the schools receive less money per student than either the universities or K-12 schools.

If the tax initiative fails, Brown wants to slash $300 million from the 112-college system's $3.7 billion budget. And, although he would give the schools $340 million from the dissolution of redevelopment agencies, experts say that money may not arrive in time for this year's budget.

"I do think some districts are going to need state assistance," said Scott Lay, president and CEO of the Community College League of California, an advocacy group. "I don't know how many districts would be able to survive a reduction like that and the lost redevelopment money."

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