Faculty and administrators sipped lemonade, crunched on cookies and discussed ways to help students overcome current barriers to their higher education goals with Los Rios Community College District Chancellor Brian King April 3.
King sat on a table in the Learning Resource Center and spent an hour addressing comments and concerns as well as answering questions from the nearly 30 faculty, staff and administrators who attended the informal gathering.
The conversation started with discussion around Assembly Bill 302, a proposal that would require community colleges to grant overnight access to campus parking facilities for homeless students to sleep in their vehicles. AB 302 will be heard in the Assembly Higher Education Committee later this week.
King expressed gratitude that the conversation kicked off on topics that can benefit students.
“The biggest barriers that our students face are things like housing insecurity and food,” said King. “The illusion that free college—which means that students don’t have to pay fees—solves the problem is something that we really have to battle together. Because some of our friends in the legislature who have championed the fee payment—we need to remind them that that’s just one of many pieces of the puzzle for our students.”
According to King, City College students pay the most money out of pocket to attend school— more than a low-income, full-time student at UC Davis or Sacramento State University.
“The net cost is higher at a community college, so that’s really contrary to the perception that people have that if fees are free, problem solved—let’s go on to the next higher ed issue,” said King.
While discussing community college fees, King mentioned the Promise Program, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, that grants first-time, full-time students free tuition for their first year of community college.
“It’s wonderful that our first time full time students can attend fee-free,” said King. “But that is nowhere near the end of the struggle that our students face.”
According to King, there is proposed state legislation this year to expand financial aid, but there’s no funding stream for expanding financial aid for community college students.
“It’s one of those tough issues. If the Legislature would say that some of our operating dollars should go to student financial aid, that’s a very hard balance. The first-year free under Gov. Brown and the second year proposed by Gov. Newsom are both about $40 million that come out of community college operation dollars,” said King. “That’s a hard decision to make because if we’re providing dollars for the fees, it’s taking dollars away from filling the positions for other student needs and faculty and staff.”
King said that it’s unfortunate that the Los Rios district has to spend time looking for private resources because state funding is not what it should be.
“K-12 is funded substantially higher per student than community colleges. CSU is funded substantially higher per student than we are. UC Davis is funded substantially higher per student than CSU, and our students have the greatest needs,” said King. “It’s completely backwards. The whole system of higher education is backwards and it’s wrong. And we say that, and we advocate for it, and change is slow because our four-year partners have a lot of political power and have other revenue streams as well.”
King said that the first step is identifying that securing more state funding is a very high priority for the Los Rios district that is consistent with its values. He also said that given the fact that community colleges are not likely to have the resources that they deserve and that the students need—the district will have to keep lobbying and advocating for more funding in the Capitol.
“What we say our values are at Sac City and across the district is clear. There’s a really clear statement of values,” said King. “If there’s a dissonance between our budgeting priorities and our stated values, that’s a good thing to have a conversation about and say, ‘How can we change that?’”
King also said that the district has to have the courage to say that resources have to come from somewhere within its budget.
“Organizations like ours struggle with reallocating resources,” said King. “Now we need to reallocate the resources toward food insecurity or housing insecurity—toward equity or tutoring.”
Originally published at http://saccityexpress.com/los-rios-chancellor-fields-questions-on-student-needs/