The End

Mike Alfieri

The Contra Costa Community College District is now budgeting for the worst-case scenario if Gov. Jerry Brown passes what is being touted as an all-cuts budget later this year in an attempt to balance the state deficit.

Chancellor Helen Benjamin said, “It would be the end of the Community College System as we know it” if Proposition 98 was suspended and Brown’s special election did not pass, during a budget forum on Jan. 27.

In a study session on the 2011-2012 budget on April 27, the district board noted that the state budget has ‘taken a turn for the worse.’

The projected state deficit is now between $25 and $26.5 billion.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office has recommended a $66 per unit fee at the community college level, which it estimates would generate $280 million statewide annually.

“Hopefully there are wiser heads in the legislature than at the LAO,” said Jeffrey Michels, president of the United Faculty of Contra Costa Community College District.  “Voters need to reinvest in education.”

Tuition for community colleges has already been increased $26 to $36 a unit per unit for the fall 2011 semester in a bill signed by Gov. Brown.

“My family is barely skating by; we can’t handle another increase,” said current DVC student Stephanie Anderson about the proposed tuition hike.

While community colleges were already planning for $400 million in cuts, an all-cuts budget would increase that amount to $585 million.

An estimated 400,000 students would be turned away from community colleges under the worst-case scenario.

An all-cuts budget would not only affect a mass of students at the community college level, but those at and planning to transfer to four-year state schools.

University of California at Berkeley is anticipating that, at worst, tuition could double, ending up between $20,000 to $25,000 a year.

In total, more than $1 billion would be taken from universities while community colleges would see a budget reduction between $342 million to $1 billion.

In the district’s plan for the looming cuts, an estimated 1,100 to 1,500 class sections would have to be cut.

“It’s appalling,” said Michels. “They have cut 20 to 25 percent of courses over a 3 year period, it’s outrageous.”

DVC has already been cutting class sections in recent semesters.

The most recent resulted in a 25 percent decrease in the summer semester with 135 class sections cut.

Though DVC just announced a reinstatement of fall classes that had been previously cut, it is already making plans for cuts to courses during spring 2012.

The Chancellor’s Office has established a task force that will recommend reforms to funding in order to ‘promote student retention and persistence’ through the cuts.  The task force will have one year to issue a report.

Under the district’s report for fiscal management, the district plans to use $4.8 million in reserve in hopes of softening the blow for loss of revenue while transitioning to the proposed budget.  The district also warns that it may have to budget for borrowing in order to maintain cash flow.

Also noted in the report in declining revenue is that enrollment peaked during 2002-2003 and declined until 2007.

Revenue is expected to decline between $15.5 million to $20.5 million at the district.

Governor Brown will release his May Revise on May 13.

While the district waits for the revision, they are developing a budget based on current information.

After the May Revise is released, the District Governance Council will meet for a workshop on the budget and has until July 1 to file an approved tentative budget with the County Superintendant.