Prop 92 Goes Bust Amidst California’s Budget Worries

David McAtee

David McAtee
City Times

The dismal fate of Proposition 92 was decided on Feb 5th by voters in California, voted down by 57 percent despite support from many groups in the state.

The measure was to recalculate and stabilize the way that community colleges received their funding, limit the ability of lawmakers to increase fees, and reduce the cost of classes from twenty dollars a unit to fifteen for the 1.6 million students at 109 schools throughout the state.

If Prop 92 had passed in February, the budget arrangement would allow for community colleges throughout the state to receive their own vein of funding.

Under the current system of calculation, community colleges receive their funding based on the enrolled population of K-12th grade students.

City College President Terrence Burgess was a strong supporter of the measure. Burgess stated that Prop. 92 was important for California because K-12 enrollment is shrinking while community college enrollment is growing every year. Had it passed, the new calculation would have based the funding on the size of the state’s young adult population and the unemployment rate.

“I was disappointed that it did not pass. The proposition would have provided more funding for expansion, which we will not now have the resources to do.”

As for why in particular the measure didn’t pass, Burgess states, “I think the timing was bad, given that the Governor had just reported a state budget shortfall of $14.5 billion, which has now grown to over $16 billion.

While the majority of Californians support community colleges, I think most folks felt that we could not afford the cost of Prop. 92 at this time.”

But Burgess remains hopeful that the cause of higher education won’t be abandoned for long. “We may be able to get a legislator to carry one or more bills sometime in the future that will effect portions of the proposition.”

Opposition to the measure included teachers’ union leaders and even the proposition’s very authors, explaining that though the accessibility for classes would increase slightly, the lack of fiscal accountability written into the measure was unacceptable.

The legislative analyst’s office calculated that Prop 92 would have cost the state 300 million dollars annually at a time when the governor’s proposed budget cut funding for education across the state.

Despite Proposition 92 being voted down in February, California’s community college students pay the lowest tuition in the nation, with a full time student paying an average of about $280 a semester.

At Nassau Community College in Long Island, a full time student can pay an average of $1,717, while a student pays $799 at Seattle Community College in Seattle, Washington, and $864 at Truman Community College in Chicago.

According to the Legislative Analyst’s office (LAO), the current national average for public 2-year colleges is $2360 per year, almost four times the amount charged by California Community Colleges.

The LAO also states that of the students enrolled in the Community College system in California, 30% receive aid through the Board of Governor’s Fee Waiver, accounting for over 40% of all units taken. The Waiver provides aid by covering the tuition cost entirely for financially needy students based on family situation and household income.