The writing has been on on the wall for awhile now and, currently, community colleges throughout California are grappling with the realities of implementing multi-million dollar mid-year budget cuts. Some have eliminated a summer session, some have dramatically reduced offerings throughout the academic year (equating to part-time faculty layoffs and decreased classes for students), others have been fortunate to be healthy financial situations and not feel the hit so hard.
The districts that are feeling the cuts the worse are those that have been scraping the budget bucket for years now. This article from the Sac Bee paints a picture of how Sierra College, which just happens to be my former “home” up until last May, is taking out the cutting sheers and trimming the programs and services they have offered to their community. In a fiscal sense, maybe this seems logical. But what’s hard for me to delineate is the line between the legally mandated function of a community college, to “offer academic and vocational instruction at the lower-division level,” and to serve the needs of its local community. Sierra has served up a number of programs on the trimming block and along with the cutting of these programs come the elimination of classes (futures, dreams) for students and careers for employees. The programs on the cutting block, according to the article, are automotive, agriculture and construction.
The sad, sad reality is that Sierra is required to cut 10 million dollars from an already depleted budget due to the further reductions in the California state funding for higher education. In my seven years at Sierra, I taught in classrooms where water dripped down the walls on rainy days and students bundled up in gloves and scarves due to insufficient heating; my attempts to use technology in the classroom were frequently derailed due to poorly updated equipment and lack of IT support; I struggled in a department with a full-time: part-time faculty ratio of 1:5 resulting in increased curriculum work, faculty evaluations, and committee responsibilities; and I taught online with no instructional design or multimedia support.
You may think to yourself, “Wow, that sounds horrible.” Well, what’s amazing about Sierra College is its spirit and it’s ability to work together collaboratively. To me, Sierra College is the perfect example of a community — a group of people who work together towards a common goal, support one another and reward one another for each other’s efforts. The Sierra College community is comprised of the most amazing faculty, staff, administrators, students and community members that I could ever imagine. And the current budget cuts are now slicing and dicing this community, cutting into its roots that shape it into a unique, much loved Placer County family member. Again, while these cuts may seem logical and essential at the superficial level of “numbers,” my heart goes out to my former family and all the students who are and will be affected.
How do we keep the “community” in “community college” through these difficult budgetary times?