Gov. Brown’s proposal and its hidden consequences

Image courtesy of the Orange County Register

It is a sad but true statement that money is what makes things happen when it comes to the education of students and the quality of instruction. With 112 community colleges reporting that revenues from student fees for the current fiscal year are $107 million below expectations, the struggle continues as community colleges try to provide a quality education on very limited resources.

Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal to change funding to a ratio of how many students actually complete the course successfully will only be another burden along with all the other financial turmoil. His policy aims to reallocate the money that is being used for core curriculum and channel it instead towards funding counselors and academic advisors in hopes of raising the passing rates.

President of Mount San Antonio Community College in Walnut, California, Dr. Bill Scroggins, stated in an interview, “The principle of [Gov.] Brown’s proposal is good but it has unintended consequences.” He said that this could critically hamper the amount of money going towards a class if it does not have a high passing rate. This means that instructors would be paid less, or the school would have to absorb the costs elsewhere.

Scroggins said that he must keep up the enrollment if not improve it in order to keep money flowing into the college. He added that with 15 percent less funding, he would still have to finance the same amount of students and would have to completely overhaul the budget. If Gov. Brown’s budget is passed, Dr. Scroggins will have to make adjustments that will affect the salaries of the faculty at Mt. SAC.

In tandem with the problem that Dr. Scroggins faces comes a much deeper issue. By cutting the salaries of instructors, would they still be motivated to provide the same quality of education as before? Down the road this could be a very important issue to be concerned about. The top universities in the country spend millions of dollars recruiting the best instructors from around the world to teach at their campuses. What is expected out of the instructors is to perform the same instruction for the same amount of hours with a cut salary.

However this threatens the motivation of instructors. Although the purpose of Jerry Brown’s proposal is to promote the success of students, it ultimately has the reverse effect. When applied to community college, tutors and academic advisors are important. But if it’s the professors that are going to be hurt—which would harm students in turn—then the purpose of providing extra resources will be in vain.

For instance, if there is full enrollment in a class one term and due to various reasons all the students drop out, what would this do to the system? The entire student population is dependent on individual students staying motivated to pass each and every one of his or her courses. Community college students are already pressured to complete in two years, but Gov. Brown’s proposal creates another source of anxiety for students since the funding for the quality of their education is determined by the motivation levels of other students, something which is both unfair and out of their control.

When students graduate from community college because they didn’t receive proper education from their professors it could eventually create a domino effect, causing universities to spend more money to get them caught up with the student populace. It may cause the average transfer student to spend a term or two catching up to where they need to be. It’s not that they will not know the subject, but the depth of their education will be lacking.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to change school funding to be based on a ratio of how many students actually complete the course successfully should not be passed. Ultimately, it is the students of California that will suffer the consequences that come with it. In a country where education is ranking low internationally, there is no need to create further hindrances that would counter-productively punish those students who are working the hardest to complete their courses.

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