California's 2-Year Colleges Face 8-Percent Cuts
California's community colleges, caught in a tuition deadlock between the Republican governor, George Deukmejian, and Democrats in the lower chamber of the state legislature, are preparing to make deep cuts in their budgets to meet a nearly 8-percent drop in funding.
The possibility that the legislature might return for a special session before January faded this month when Assembly Democrats met and reaffirmed their opposition to student fees. The Democratic and Republican leaders in the Assembly later discussed the funding issue but reached no agreement.
California operates the oldest and largest system of public two-year colleges in the country.
The state's 107 community colleges, located in 70 separate districts, enrolled about 1.3 million students last year; their budgets totaled $1.5 billion in state and local revenues. But enrollments have declined by an estimated 8 percent this fall, officials of community colleges say, because of the improvement in the economy, the cuts that are being made in the schools' programs, and students' uncertainty over whether the proposed fees would be levied.
Governor Deukmejian has cut $232 million from the community colleges' state support for this year, lowering the state's contribution to $108.5 million below last year's figure.
Charging Fees of $100 Annually
The Governor has proposed restoring the funds by charging fees of $100 annually for full-time students and $60 for part-time students at all the public two-year schools. Democrats in the Assembly blocked the imposition of those charges before the legislature adjourned last month.
The impasse between Mr. Deukmejian and the legislators developed after the Governor approved a bill providing an additional $800 million in state funds for this year to support a broad school-reform effort.
Gerald C. Hayward, chancellor of the state's community-college system, said he expected the 7.7-percent funding reduction for the colleges will lead to "drastic" budget cuts in the spring semester. "In a sense, the districts will have to make double cuts for the spring because they have not made the cuts in the fall," he said. "Most assumed they would get the same level as last year and planned on that basis. Now, they're going to have to go back and dig out their worst-case scenario."
Mr. Hayward said the reductions will come chiefly in the ranks of part-time instructors and classified employees. Full-time instructors are covered until the end of the academic year by contracts.
The chancellor said enrollment in two-year colleges is likely to drop by 160,000 students this year because of the possibility that fees will be imposed.
Governor Deukmejian argues that the two-year-college students should pay part of the cost of their education. California is the only state in the country that does not charge any tuition in its two-year system, he points out, adding that a $10-million financial-aid component in his proposal will assist low-income students.
The Governor's opponents counter, however, that many low-income students will drop out of college if a fee is imposed, even if financial aid is available. Moreover, they argue, such fees, once established, will rise rapidly, as they have in the state's four-year-college and university systems.