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Community Colleges Getting Less Funding But Likely More Students In Coming Year

San Diego City College is pictured in this photo, April 11, 2017.

Photo by KPBS Staff

Above: San Diego City College is pictured in this photo, April 11, 2017.

Jack Kahn, the acting president and superintendent at Palomar College, remembers community college enrollment spiking during the 2008 Great Recession. He expects the same to happen in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

With the pandemic causing historic jumps in unemployment, community college officials anticipate jobless Californians to return to school to learn a new skill or complete a degree while the economy recovers. But colleges will meet this influx of students with funding cuts as high as 10 percent based on the revised state budget that Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled last week.

“The irony of what’s happening now is that we’re predicting a recession, and the institutions that are best suited to serve people in a recession will be gutted,” Kahn said.

RELATED: With Grim Projections In Revised State Budget, Local School Officials Call For Federal Help

The new budget includes more than $1 billion in cuts. This will mean bigger class sizes, fewer course offerings and maybe even the elimination of programs.

Local officials say vocational training programs will be hit especially hard.

“People who are unemployed come back to community college to get retrained, retooled and to find a way to get back into the workforce,” said Kindred Murrillo, president and superintendent of Southwestern Community College in Chula Vista.

RELATED: Pandemic May Bring Major Funding Cuts To San Diego County’s Community Colleges

However, more students paying tuition won’t mean more money for colleges. This is because in California community colleges receive state money based on their previous year’s enrollments.

“In California there’s a fixed amount of funding,” said Constance Carroll, chancellor of the San Diego Community College District. “There’s a ceiling beyond which you’ll not be paid even if your enrollment skyrockets.”

The educators say the new stimulus package passed by the U.S. House last week could be a huge help. But with President Trump threatening to veto that bill, there is no saying right now when or if help will arrive.

Listen to this story by Joe Hong.

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Photo of Joe Hong

Joe Hong
Education Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an education reporter, I'm always looking for stories about learning. My favorite education stories put a student's face on bigger policy issues. I regularly sift through enrollment data, test scores and school budgets, but telling student-centered stories is my top priority.

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