Santa Barbara City College has been a big part of my life for a long time. I am a former trustee of the college and have served since 1982 as a member of the Board of Directors for the Foundation for SBCC, the fundraising arm of the college; and since 1979 as an instructor in the Continuing Education Division.
The recent letters to the editor from a few unhappy students and former staff alleging that SBCC is dismantling Continuing Education strike me as puzzling and just plain inaccurate.
Here are the facts:
• The state budget crisis is alive and well. SBCC, like all public agencies dependent on state support, has had to address how to continue to offer as many credit and non-credit classes as possible each semester or term with fewer dollars. Although monthly payments from the state may be forthcoming at some point, it’s very likely they could be delayed until late fall. The college must be financially prepared for that possibility. The college must also have money to support critical programs for which state funding has been cut by half.
• Continuing Education is by no means being dismantled, and students are not being priced out of classes by high fees. During 2009-2010, more than 2,000 state-supported classes were offered tuition-free, and about 200 charged tuition. This past spring, only 20 courses no longer eligible for state funding were converted to charging a tuition fee. The average tuition fee per student for classes running a full 10-week term this upcoming fall ranges somewhere between $40 and $80.
• It is correct that Continuing Education’s summer term for this year has been reduced. However, there were good reasons. First, the decision was a collective one involving input from both faculty and students. It was not an arbitrary decision by SBCC administrators. The SBCC administration believes in and adheres to the shared governance principles of community colleges. By offering a smaller summer term, there is more funding for full 10-week terms in fall, winter, and spring, the times that most students take classes. The courses kept for summer were those required in such programs as vocational certificate programs, English as a Second Language, GED, and the Adult High School program where students needed to continue their classes in order to graduate on schedule and, hopefully, find work. In 2010-2011, again, about 2,000 state-supported Continuing Education classes are being offered across all disciplines.
• It is not true that classes for seniors are being dismantled. With the exception of this summer, about 60 percent of Continuing Education classes each term are in programs for older adults. While these courses are developed for people 55 and older, all adults are eligible to enroll. Short-term vocational courses, ESL, parenting education, health and safety, basic skills, and family and consumer sciences make up the remaining 40 percent of courses.
• In a community such as ours, we all take great pride in what Santa Barbara has to offer. For me, SBCC is right up at the top of that list. I personally support that the SBCC administration and the Board of Trustees are taking a thoughtful and fiscally conservative approach to operations. Our fellow citizens in other communities are not so fortunate. Across the state, other community colleges are in severe financial trouble, either borrowing money or canceling terms outright. It’s a reality of the tough times we live in.
I ask that we all join together to support our community college. For more information on what’s happening, you can go to the SBCC Continuing Education website.