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Unfunded Growth in Community Colleges

July 28, 2002

As a Los Angeles Community College District trustee, it pains me to turn away students from our nine campuses. It is difficult to watch community colleges across California do the same. But we are learning a lesson in economics and politics. As The Times accurately reported in "Tough Times Force Cuts at 2-Year Colleges" (July 22), the community college district is facing financial challenges that are forcing us to limit enrollment and reduce classes.

The LACCD is the best post-secondary education deal in California, and our growing enrollment is proof of that. But our burgeoning enrollment is also our biggest challenge. In Los Angeles, the critical issue is "unfunded growth." This last year, the LACCD enrollment grew 10%, but the district received only a 3% increase in state funding. This meant that the Los Angeles Community College District served 14,000 full-time-equivalent students, or about 22,000 actual students, whom we didn't get funding for.

The campus budgets absorbed this cost, but the saturation point has been reached and surpassed. This problem is compounded because community colleges get funded less per student than any other level of higher education.

The LACCD educates more than four times as many African Americans and three times as many Latinos as the University of California system. In order to maintain the Los Angeles community colleges' status as "gateways to opportunity," the state must adjust its funding formulas and address the critical problem of unfunded growth. We cannot slam the door on people who want to learn and throw them into a society that demands college diplomas to succeed.

Warren Furutani

President, LACC District

Board of Trustees

Los Angeles

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