Editor: This is a commentary sent to us by OBcean Richard Grosch who wrote it in conjunction with labor activist Peter Zschiesche and was published in the July 18th OpEd pages of the U-T San Diego. Grosch is president of the San Diego Community College District board of trustees, and Zschiesche is the executive vice president of the board.
By Richard Grosch & Peter Zschiesche / U-T San Diego / Originally published July 18, 2012
California has a higher education crisis. The University of California (UC), the California State University System (CSU) and the California Community College system have all been hit with deep reductions in state funding for students’ education in the face of unprecedented need for job training, college degree preparation and re-careering.
Within this troubled mix, community college students are at the greatest disadvantage. Doors to a public university baccalaureate degree are being closed to qualified local community college students and high school graduates. These students are being turned away from admission to UC San Diego (UCSD) and San Diego State University (SDSU) to make way for students from outside San Diego who have mostly straight “A” grades, can pay higher non-California resident fees or can pay to stay in expensive on-campus housing.
For many local UC- and CSU-qualified students, the additional costs of enrolling at a UC or CSU campus in another part of the state is an unaffordable option. Undergraduate class enrollment costs at UC and CSU campuses are approximately $395 and $295 per credit unit, respectively. These amounts do not include a variety of additional fees or room and board expenses for on-campus housing away from the campus nearest home.
Costs at for-profit or private colleges and universities can be significantly greater for many middle-class and low-income parents. In the case of online classes at Ashford University, the cost is $402 per credit unit. For the University of San Diego, the cost is approximately $1,590 per credit unit. Both universities require additional fees.
> Fewer opportunities for talented San Diego students to earn a public university degree translates into a skills shortage for regional businesses seeking more local college graduates to fuel the regional economy. Local industries cry out for a more educated workforce, but the current public higher education system is not providing opportunities for all our local students who are trying to answer their call.
We believe part of the solution to this problem lies in authorizing California’s community colleges, including those in the San Diego Community College District, to begin offering four-year bachelor’s degrees in certain subject majors that are in high demand by San Diegans and unmet by UCSD and SDSU. Community colleges in San Diego can do their part as are 42 other community colleges in 21 states across the United States that are currently offering 231 accredited baccalaureate degrees in fields ranging from nursing and radiologic and imaging science to software engineering and energy technology management.
If you agree with us, we urge your support of efforts in the upcoming legislative session to provide a baccalaureate degree option for community-college students. It is the best and most cost-effective way to provide our local college-ready students with a four-year public college education.
San Diego’s community colleges are capable of providing these high-demand baccalaureate degrees. We have the qualified faculty, new state-of-the-art facilities being built with $1.555 billion in local Propositions S and N tax dollars, and established relations with local industries that keep our academic programs relevant.
Sixty years ago, President Harry Truman called for a network of community colleges to dramatically expand opportunities for veterans returning from World War II. He envisioned the community colleges as the first step toward a more educated and productive America. In 2011, President Barack Obama reaffirmed that call to a nation faced with rapid technological change and global competition. If UCSD and SDSU are going to reduce their role in admitting qualified community-college transfer students, then surely the San Diego community colleges should not be denied the opportunity to meet the patriotic challenge forcefully expressed by two of our nation’s presidents.
We would certainly coordinate this effort in cooperation with UCSD and SDSU to avoid wasteful duplication. We call on San Diegans to join us so that we may begin the process of strengthening our local and the nation’s economy by building this new academic initiative for our local students.