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Predicted College Enrollment Surge

November 13, 1994

The bitter competition for California higher education seats by children of the baby boomers ("Colleges Gird for Children of Baby Boomers," Oct. 31) would be greatly mitigated if the Master Plan for Higher Education was changed to encourage all students to complete their first year, maybe even two years, at a community college. That would make room at the four-year universities for all students who made it to their junior year.

There are many good reasons to implement this plan. First of all, there is a huge dropout rate among freshmen at all campuses, but the state pays much more to start these students at four-year universities than at community college campuses. Secondly, the four-year schools, especially the UC campuses, are primarily research institutions with world-class laboratories and research libraries that students do not fully utilize until after completing their lower-division work. For this reason, it is also much less expensive to expand the community college system than to build more UC campuses. Thirdly, the lower-division education at community colleges is comparable to that found at large universities: The transfer courses are the same, having been approved as such by the four-year universities; the textbooks are the same; typically the classes are smaller.

For years, transfer students have done as well as, if not slightly better than, native freshmen at the four-year universities.

GARY HOFFMAN

Professor of English

Orange Coast College

* My appreciation to Jonathan Peterson for his insightful coverage of the community college dilemma ("Can Junior Colleges Train Work Force of the Future?," Nov. 2). As an instructor at Pasadena City College, I can personally attest to the challenges faced by our very diverse student body. As president of the Faculty Assn. of California Community Colleges (FACCC) I can also attest to the challenges faced by the instructors who teach these students--these days hamstrung by larger class sizes, smaller budgets, fewer course sections, deteriorating facilities and decrepit equipment.

As detailed in a new report from the California Higher Education Policy Center, "Broken Promises: The Impact of Budget Cuts and Fee Increases on the California Community Colleges," higher fees and chronic underfunding have crippled the state's community college system. The community colleges were envisioned by the state's Master Plan for Higher Education, the report points out, "as the backbone of California's system of higher education, the last bastion of low-cost access, the place where undergraduate students could get into classes" when other colleges and universities were closed to them. Now, sadly, "they are no longer playing that role."

JANE HALLINGER

Pasadena

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