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Community Colleges

May 17, 1993

Santa Monica College President Richard Moore has put his finger on a serious problem when he complains that the community colleges are being smothered by a profusion of unnecessary state regulations. Certainly, the minutiae he pointed to constitutes silly state interference with effective and efficient education delivery ("A State-Regulated Monster Built From Good Intentions," Voices, May 3).

On the other hand, some state regulations, such as requiring that at least 50% of each college budget be spent on instruction and that the growing reliance on part-time teachers be reversed, are still badly needed. It is currently fashionable to applaud local control and to complain about state interference, but one is given pause when considering why state regulation exists in the first place. For example, the state had to mandate that at least 50% of a college budget be spent on instruction because, difficult as it is to fathom, such a commitment was often not forthcoming at the local level.

While Moore's intentions are certainly honorable, his column threatens some distortion if it is taken to be an accurate expression of the greatest problem community colleges now face. On the contrary, our greatest difficulty is the governor's plan to cut community college funding by a debilitating 12% and to raise student fees by 300%.

The governor's proposals to raise community college fees to $30 per unit sounds reasonable to decision-makers looking at higher national averages. But to the recent high school graduate, the newly divorced mother, the laid-off defense worker, or the immigrant enrolled in an English class, the proposed tripling of fees will, in many cases, be an insurmountable barrier to attaining their education.

Community colleges provide an education for the lowest price possible, spending just $3,100 per student. Compare that to the national average of $3,700 per community college student or the $7,900 spent by Cal State or the $16,457 spent by UC.

All state programs should be carefully scrutinized to make sure their services are absolutely essential to the state and its people. Until now, California's community colleges have been among the most successful at meeting this goal, but care must now be taken that through suffocating regulations and emaciating funding, the community colleges are not transformed from a strapping leader in education into an institutional invalid.

LEON P. BARADAT, President

Faculty Assn. of California Community Colleges, Sacramento

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