By Augustine Ugalde
California’s crippling budget cuts in education have adversely affected each and every one of the state’s 112 community colleges, including East Los Angeles College.
The state’s education budget became a favorite target during former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s time in office and there is no indication this negative trend will soon end.
The University of California State systems were not spared the ax either as each institution has had to deal with similar issues. However, the community college system may be least able to cope with the cuts.
Many of California’s community college students come from low-income families.
Community college represents their best chance of earning a degree in higher education and improving their prospects for gainful employment.
Since the 2007 – 08 fiscal year, California’s education budget has been in a downward spiral.
This has put many departments at ELAC into a scramble mode to make ends meet, while still providing a first-rate education.
This year’s budget is no different.
Department chairs have had to deal with a budget that is approximately 55 percent lower than the 2010 – 11 fiscal year.
Although all departments are affected, those programs that require laboratory work are most affected.
Departments such as Chemistry, Auto Technology, Anthropology/Geography/Geology, Engineering, Nursing, Photography, Speech and Theater Arts and, of course, Journalism are deeply affected.
Although each department is affected differently and has its own unique issues, some similarities exist, such as closed sections causing the school to turn students away.
The Chemistry Department has lost its option to open new sections when prospective students exceed the number of seats available.
Another adjustment the department has made is to eliminate some of the costlier lab experiments. It is considering going from a wet lab to a dry one in order to cope with the cuts.
The Engineering Department has had to dismiss adjunct faculty and limit the number of in-class student tutors.
The department has been able to survive the carnage because of grant money that has bolstered its fortunes during the past three years. That source of funding has dried-up.
The Anthropology/Geography/Geology Department estimates its supply budget to be 85 percent less than the 2007 – 08 level. While the Journalism Department is grappling with how to manage publishing a weekly newspaper with its limited funds.
The Speech and Theater Arts department has the use of state-of-the-art facilities made possible by bond money, but lacks the resources to provide a first-class education at these facilities.
This all begs the question of why do our elected officials in Sacramento feel it isnecessary to compromise the future of the state.
Politicians have been described in the past as short-sighted, and this negative trend only serves to amplify this notion.
The future of the state and that of the country lies with its young people.
When are our so-called leaders going to realize that this trend must end, and that supporting higher education is an investment for the future.
Higher education must not be compromised. It must be allowed to grow and its students must be allowed to flourish.
Without them, there is no future.
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Though we are a ways off from the California election season, it is still good to start thinking about things ahead of time. Hopefully these elections will make the type of changes we need here in California. Sooner the better too!!