Many students attend community college with the intention of later transferring to a four-year university. Some students, however, have no plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree and instead attend community college simply to expand their knowledge and gain life skills. For the latter group, if California Senate Bill (SB) 173 passes, this may no longer be possible.
SB173 would limit state funding for adult education to English proficiency, technical training and remedial classes required for a high school diploma. All other classes — parenting, home economics, health and safety, programs for older adults and non-credit classes such as participation in the performing arts — would have to find funding elsewhere.
Senator Carol Liu proposed SB-173 in February 2013, and the bill is now up for an Assembly committee vote. If the bill passes, it will go into effect July 2015.
While it does not directly prevent community colleges from offering the aforementioned classes, the bill does withdraw state-mandated funding from community colleges that offer them, forcing students who require education in essential life skills to fend for themselves. This leaves the students with two options — either pay more expensive fees, or live without the knowledge of how to balance a checking account or how to give an infant CPR.
Politicians’ rationale behind SB-173 is that community colleges should serve as gateways to universities, and that transferring to a four-year university should be a community college student’s main priority. This reasoning fails to realize that some people may be unable to attend a university, and some people may just not want to. The bill neglects students who do not plan to transfer to a four-year university and prioritizes those who do.
Community colleges enroll California’s lowest-income students, according to a 2014 report by the Foundation for California Community Colleges. It says full-time students have an annual median income of about $16,000, with one-fourth having incomes less than $5,500.
If funding for parenting, home economics and health and safety classes is cut, community colleges will be forced to deny education to those who need it most, marginalizing low-income households even more. For people who have had no training in safety, home economics and other basic skills, community colleges are one of the only places where this education is accessible.
Acquiring a degree is not the only way to go about getting an education, and skills gained by these parenting and safety classes are still extremely useful for people who are not aiming for a degree.
Education does not only manifest itself in a diploma. Rather, it can show itself in a parent’s healthy relationship with his or her child or in an English as a second language (ESL) student’s ability to confidently carry out a conversation in English.
Californians need to stop equating success to a four-year degree and relinquish any stigmas against those who attend community college. In doing so, we can validate different forms of education and recognize everyone’s right to an education.