Proposition 92 Good for City College, Bad for University

On the February 2008 ballot is a measure titled Prop 92: Community College Governance, Funding Stabilization, and Student Fee Reduction Act.  Like most propositions, this one is complex and has the potential of affecting many constituents in Long Beach, particularly students at Long Beach City College (LBCC) and Cal State Long Beach (CSULB). The ladder could face severe adverse consequences with the passage of this proposition, which could result in less money for the CSU system and student fee increases not only for CSULB’s 36,000 students, but for all 450,000 CSU and 200,000 UC students.

There has been a flurry of advocacy both for and against the measure, including formal oppositions taken by the governing boards of the state’s two university systems – the CSU and the UC, and support by the Trustees of the California Community Colleges.  The reason these institutions are uncommonly at odds is due to the “Funding Stabilization” and “Fee Reduction” components of the measure. 

In addition to specifying the composition of its governing board and recognizing the California Community Colleges in the State’s constitution– both reasonable recommendations - Prop 92 proposes significant amendments to how the community colleges receive State funds.  The first is to amend their funding structure so it’s based on the demographic of how many 17-25 year olds live in state, rather than the 18-20 model currently in place.  This will provide money based on educating eight age groups, not three.  This is a much larger drain on the State’s already strained budget, which will have to pay for this change by taking from somewhere else. The measure also changes per unit Community College fees from $20 to $15.

By implementing these new funding policies, Community Colleges would receive previously earmarked funding through the State’s non-discretionary account.  They would not be touched but for that purpose.  It also means these funds are no longer located in the State’s General Fund, decreasing the amount of money left for the departments that fight for those General Fund dollars every year. The Legislative Analysts Office predicts the initial three year cost at almost $1 billion.

Prop 92 removes resources from the following departments - the CSU and UC systems, K-12 Education, Health and Human Services, Prisons, and a few other small state agencies.  Leaders of the CSU, UC, and their governing boards are opposing this measure for fear it will result in perpetuating the ever decreasing budgets for their institutions.  Based on historical legislative patterns, removing resources from the General Fund will adversely affect their budgets.  This in turn causes higher student fees and decreased access to government funding for higher education.  

While community colleges students could save $5 per unit, the financial burden may then be carried by the already strained CSU and UC systems due to the aforementioned budget cuts. This may not only affect the 36,000 students enrolled at CSULB, but all beneficiaries of both state university systems.  

It’s obviously a tenuous issue for the institutions of higher education in our State.  All perform a vital function, all are under funded, and they typically ally on legislative priorities. Thy are typically lock-step in agreement on general issues facing higher education in California, but this proposition simply does not make sense for all. 

The February Presidential Primary is just a couple months away.  Drive safely to the polls!


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