A constitutional and statutory initiative proposes to slash student fees and preclude their growth at a rate exceeding students” personal income.
The Community College Initiative proposes to amend the State Constitution and state law in a range of methods to alter the current funding requirements, set college fees at $15 per unit per semester and modify governance systems employed by the 72 Districts and 109 campuses comprising California Community Colleges.
Secretary of State Bruce McPherson gave key initiative proponents in the Sacramento area the green light to amass the 598,105 petition signatures of registered voters required to implement the initiative. A comprehensive list of provisions and projected amendments to the California Constitution’s Education Codes will remain in circulation until the 150-day initiative period lapses in January of 2007.
The measure aims to redraft the premise of Proposition 98, a complex formula launched in 1988 designed to provide K-14 schools with a guaranteed funding source that grows each year with the economy and the number of students’.
This guaranteed funding is provided through a combination of state General Fund and local property tax revenues by establishing separate funding agreements for the community college system and for the K-12 system. The proposed measure plans to split existing K-14 schools into one agreement for K-12 schools and a separate agreement for community colleges. This twofold mechanism would neither milk taxpayers nor funds present in K-12 schools.
The measure would necessitate nominal levels of state funding. The allocation formula for fund revenues would be chiefly contingent on assessed need in schools, adhering to similar plans adopted by YCCD as groundwork for bond Measure J.
The reduction in fee revenue would moderately counterbalance Proposition 98 district spending increases by establishing a minimum guarantee spending total for K-14 schools based on economic growth and changes within the college-age population. Irrespective of the discrepancy between community college growth and employment figures, the measure caps the growth to five percent in any given fiscal year.
Furthermore, it calls for a concurrence between annual fees and percentage change in capita personal income in California.
At this time, the state constitution bears no formal definition of community colleges. While community colleges are denoted in miscellaneous financial context, the measure requests more formal establishment as a precinct of the Public School System as well as adequate funding for community colleges from legislature through the annual budget act.
The measure also seeks establishment of CCC in the Board of Governors altering the composition of BOG from 16 to 19 executive members and exempting them from civil service regulations. This would mean that the Board of Governors would assume the amended title Board of Governors of California Community Colleges under the State Constitution, exercising vested legislative power with a larger board.
Beginning in the 2007-2008 academic year, colleges could expect an unprecedented growth in population among students’ ages 17-21. In light of anticipated growth, the state legislature’s decision to reduce students’ fees from $26 to $20 beginning January 1, 2007 will accommodate, at least in part, students’ financial need. Under the Student Fee Reduction Act, full-time students would save an estimated 42 percent, or $180 per semester, to attend college.
According to YCCD Public Information Officer Miriam Root, “Reduction of student fees will enable students to take an additional class or two next semester for the same, or close to, the amount they paid this semester.” She added, “In turn, this will enable students to complete their Associate Degree, certificate or transfer requirements quicker.”
Presently, the Yuba Community College District is amidst a bond campaign, hoping to garner $190 million for district-wide campus infrastructure repairs, renovation, improved student service programs, facilities expansion and technological upgrades.
If this initiative passes as well, it could operate with the bond to sustain access to cost-effective, quality education at YCCD.