It's YOUR College!
Kristin M. Hollabaugh, Ph.D.
Provost, Hanford Educational Center
In the world of higher education, public community colleges, CSUs, and UCs are all different, but our primary goals remain the same: to provide opportunities for our students! In recent months, all of our institutions have continued to tell our story to basically anybody who will listen. Ask just about anybody in higher education these days, "How is the budget?" You will probably not hear stories of great times.
In recent months, the focus of completion, transfer, success are more and more prevalent. Last week, the Campaign for College Opportunity came out with its most recent publication (California' Economic Payoff: Investing in College Access and Completion) wherein it states that for every dollar spent on public higher education, it will return between $2.40 (for someone who enters college, but does not complete) and $4.80 (for college completers). Pretty astonishing results. I'm not sure that some of the other budget line items return the same type of results!
When I'm talking to a group of prospective students--whether it is group of 5th graders or high school students, I always ask who would like $1 million? I have yet to find a person who doesn't want to hear the secret. Well, the numbers have again been confirmed. The report also finds that the personal payoff for all Californians who earn a college degree is substantial--more than $1,340,000 on average over a lifetime above their peers who only receive a high school diploma.
So, if all of these numbers are true why does this look like the worst times we have seen in a long time. More and more students come to our campus telling stories of tougher entrance into UCs or CSUs. More and more people are coming to our campus looking for less expensive ways of completing their general education requirements given rising tuition. More and more students are coming to our campus telling of being displaced--and needing a marketable skill At the same time, ironically, emails come from the State saying, "prepare for more cuts."
I recently finished Captain D. Michael Abrashoff's, It's Your Ship. (Next up...his second book!) In this first book, however, Captain Abrashoff tells his story and that of taking command of USS Benfold--a key player in the Persian Gulf Fleet. The stories have become legendary inside and outside of the Navy. Abrashoff took over at a difficult time in the life of USS Benfold, but in his first weeks, Captain Abrashoff began implementing his beliefs that there was always a better way to do things--often outside the Navy's accepted practices.
This book has given me many thoughts and conversations in recent weeks. Yes...California Community Colleges are at a difficult time. Like the USS Benfold, we are limited governed by laws, rules, and budgets that are not set by individual colleges or districts. We must work within the system. What we can do, however, is identify ways to weather this storm. We can continue to serve the students that we are here to serve, and find ways to make sure their time with us is successful.
After all, community colleges are the best "ship" the higher educational seas. We are affordable, accessible. and have the ability to provide transfer opportunities or marketable skills to our students! So next time you hear of yet another budget cut to community colleges--the place where your sons/daughters/neighbors/or employees depend on education, know that we are doing everything in our power to identify ways to better serve our students.
The waters are difficult, but community colleges are strong vessels that can weather the storm.