State budget harms community colleges

Brittney Young

By BRITTNEY YOUNG

The more time spent looking at Gov. Doug Ducey’s educational funding budget, the more it sucks.

Kindergarten through 12th grade spending isn’t the only thing that has been reworked in the governor’s new plan to redefine educational spending.

Community colleges have endured the most in Arizona’s “redefined” state funding.

Rather than rework the numbers in the budget under the guise of changing it, the budget simply cut funding for state community colleges.

Pima Community College students know that better than anyone, as tuition rates have increased in part due to lack of state funding.

The school received nearly $6.5 million from the state in fiscal year 2015, according to the PCC budget report. State funding listed in the 2016 budget report was a big fat $0.

Last year, tuition cost $75.50 per unit for in-state students. This year it cost $78.50. PCC cut tuition rates for out-of-state students, in hopes it would encourage those students to come to our community college.

The 10 Phoenix-area schools in the Maricopa Community Colleges system are also no longer receiving any funding. They and PCC are the largest community colleges in the state.

It won’t stop there either, as plans are being made to cut funding from other community colleges statewide in the future.

The state has already moved to cut funding from Central Arizona College in Pinal County, but CAC was saved by legislation that protected its funding.

The immediate problem these schools face is the hardship the funding cuts create for their students. PCC has had an expenditure limitation in which it needs to reduce costs by $5 million.

Suggestions for ways to do this include tuition increases, department and campus consolidation, hiring freezes, elimination of certain positions and leasing equipment rather than purchasing it.

Another issue that has been created by the state is how dependent PCC has become on federal aid for its students.

The Pell Grant is pretty much the only aid a community college student can receive that isn’t a loan. It’s no wonder admission rates have decreased when no one can afford to attend.

As a nation, more emphasis has been put on community colleges as a starting place for higher education, but in Arizona it seems to be penalized.

At least this doesn’t seem to be a growing trend throughout the country. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam began the Tennessee Promise program, which focuses on ways to make community colleges essentially tuition-free for graduating high school seniors.

Arizona continues to be the anomaly that baffles educators and students alike.

Brittney Young is a financial aid student and appreciates the opportunity of starting at a community college rather than a university.

Filed Under: InsightOpinion

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