State budget offers ‘epic opportunity’ for California community colleges

July 16th, 2015

Written by: Richard Duran, former President of Oxnard College and. Brad C. Phillips, President and CEO of the Institute for Evidenced-Based Change.

This post originally appeared as a commentary in EdSource on July 2, 2015.

We call it an epic opportunity.The budget deal agreed to by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature last month has record increases for education, particularly community colleges. Some call it a windfall. Others call it catch up from deep budget slashing during the recession.

The infusion of money combined with untenable economic and racial inequity provides an extraordinary opportunity to slay some sacred cows and status quo thinking.

With the clarity and liberty of retirement and experience helping colleges use data to improve student success, we have some suggestions to maximize each dollar:

We applaud Gov. Brown and the Chancellor’s office for recognizing that the current system is struggling to support many of our students’ needs and for proposing this historic investment in community colleges. How we choose to use the new money will test our commitment to students and doing what’s right.

Our institutions can be key to job and economic growth in the state – helping unemployed, underemployed and high school students access affordable, valuable degrees and certificates that open doors to rewarding careers and transfer to the university system.

As college leaders in charge of the campuses receiving this much-needed funding to serve 2.3 million students every year, let’s use it wisely. We have an opportunity to build a more effective state community college system that truly delivers equity and opportunity in the Golden State. But only if we stop assuming we know what’s best for students, do the research to determine their needs and take time to connect with each and every student in ways that have never been done before. Let’s get to work.

About the Authors:

Richard Duran recently  stepped down as president of Oxnard College after eight years

Richard Duran recently retired as President of Oxnard College after eight years.

Brad Phillips, President and CEO of the Institute for Evidenced-Based Change.