Governor Jerry Brown’s new education packages, along with the passage of Proposition 30, have opened many doors for community colleges as well as K-12 education. More courses can now be offered, especially online courses for both college and high school students. With such a bright future in store for students, it will be important to provide the necessary resources for scholastic success.
A unique pilot program, Assembly Bill 181, is being sponsored by Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue. The bill allows high school students to take college courses while still attending high school potentially achieving a degree with as many as 120 total units. In a letter to the Appeal Democrat published January 24,2013, Chancellor Douglas Houston of Yuba College told Assemblyman Dan Logue the Yuba Community District would be a partner on this bill. I spoke with Chancellor Houston who gave his strong support for this initiative, saying, “This bill will decrease the cost and time for the completion of an Associate’s, Bachelor’s, or Master’s degree.” As the letter in the Appeal Democrat stated, “An accelerated timeline is already to students who can begin taking college classes while still in high school; few can participate, however, because of legislative restrictions. Perhaps, this bill will alleviate these restrictions. This could cut as much as two to four years off the rigorous schedule of college study. This time savings would put young people fresh out of college into the job market sooner, making them able to start their careers in their early twenties, with a degree in their pocket. Since the full time student transfer rate to four year universities from Yuba College is a paltry 19%, this alternative is very appealing to those seeking a Bachelor’s degree. Most transfer degrees now are funded by a combination of grants, loans, and waivers, all forms of student aid which can cost the students, schools and governments a lot of money.
The challenge of providing student resources while continuing to budget the financial resources of a major college are difficult at best. Chancellor Houston said, “We are still cutting back in the face of further funding coming in, as Proposition 30 dollars are not due to arrive until July.” The Yuba College District budget was released detailing cost cuts in many areas focusing on fiscal restraint and the elimination of some faculty positions. This should result in budgetary savings and reduce costs of administration. This combination should further fuel the economic resources that are so desperately needed for the future of our education process.
In 2012, the new Sutter Campus opened after receiving funding help from the Measure J Bond initiative. This funding was approved by voters during an affluent period of our economy and provided money which was used to construct a new college facility in Yuba City. The campus was built at a cost of $400 million, of which $130 million is paid back on principal. The last $4.6 million was borrowed as a capital appreciation bond. Capital appreciation bonds are different because they carry more interest at higher rates and take a lot longer to repay. The interest rate of 12.6% was much higher than the previous interest rates of the first two parts of Bond Measure J ( Series’ A+B). The cost of the last $4.6 million(Series C) was a $56.8 million payback over 35 years, preventing any more borrowing against principal. This severely hampered ability to repay the borrowed money even in the allotted 35 years, according to tax assessor Dan Mierswa of Yuba County. Therefore, capital appreciation bonds, in a down economy, are surely not a prudent investment at all. However, in all actuality, Measure J was mostly successful because of the new legislation with Governor Brown’s education proposal and the passage of Proposition 30. Now, the burden of financial relief can be removed and the blame for bad money choices taken off Measure J and the voters.
I had a chance to speak with Interim President of Yuba College, Rod Beilby, about some of the recent developments in education. Beilby used to be the Athletic Director and did an excellent job as Acting President last year. He is also enthusiastic about the new education package legislated by Governor Jerry Brown. The Governor supports the funding of the community college system and would like to see the graduation rates and transfer rates increase. Although transfer rates to four year universities from Yuba College currently stand at 19%, down from 21% last semester, the transfer rates for the athletic department are very high at 53%. Both Chancellor Houston and President Beilby have backgrounds starting in the Athletic Department. Perhaps with more tenure, expectations for the overall transfer rates of students at Yuba College will rival those of the athletic department. The passage of Assembly Bill 181 can only help.
Beilby was most pleased with the passage of Proposition 30 in November, a measure which was not expected to pass. Proposition 30 provided a great deal of money and financial support for Community colleges like Yuba. Most important it prevents “trigger cuts,” repayment of monies already spent, thus saving community colleges $215 million, with $2.5 million of this money directly affecting Yuba College. This is very important to Yuba College campuses, which include Clear Lake, Beale, and Woodland. As construction continues on the library and other buildings on campus, there is hope that Prop 30 may provide the financial relief which will allow the job to be finished, another triumph for the voters and relief for Measure J.
According to Chancellor Douglas Houston, the funds will not be available until July of this year. This helps Yuba College avoid a 7.5% budget cutback had Prop 30 not passed,thereby allowing more classes for the students and more financial resources, possibly a 3.6% budget increase according to the proposed 2013-2014 District Budget Summit, another successful achievement. A little patience and a lot less negativity would have gone a long way last year with respect to our educational resources and funding. It seems hard to understand the mistrust and lack of confidence in the people in charge, those in whom we put our faith and trust in the first place.
Our voters, elected officials and college governing bodies took a lot of heat for the money we spent on Measure J and other educational funding initiatives last year. Proposition 30, also passed by voters, helped to fill in the gaps, opening up the financial outlook for future spending by providing much needed resources.
Hopefully, we can now get past the criticism the Yuba College Board of Trustees and Chancellor Houston received in the Appeal Democrat on September 15th, 2012 over the cost of Bond Measure J which helped fund the construction of the new Sutter Campus.
Recently the Marysville Unified School District wisely rejected the remaining $12 million of Bond Measure P, also a capital appreciation bond, along with $10 million of matching funds that came with it, fearing repayment would be too costly at $72 million. This measure, passed in 2008 by voters, began constructing new classrooms for three elementary schools in Yuba County but stalled when funding ran out. Even though this was a sound fiscal decision, we still have work to do to make up these missing funds. This decision left three elementary schools in Yuba County short on much needed money and resources to finish new classrooms, parking lot renovations, and new bus routes they were expecting. Ella, Arboga, and Lindhurst elementary are the three schools most closely affected by the Bond Measure P initiative. Perhaps Proposition 30 dollars will be a help to these schools also.
The path to higher education starts at the elementary school level. There are many hurdles that students must overcome to reach the finish line of a degree at a four year University. You as a student may have had to battle just to be a student and maintain a good set of grades while paying for the cost of books and gas. Keep a positive outlook and put your faith in those you trust. Always know, tomorrow’s a brighter day.
Look for further information on the fiscal needs of the three schools, Ella, Arboga, and Lindhurst elementary schools in the Prospector’s next edition.