Class sections added, state funding increased

Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal aims to improve the finances of learning institutions like Citrus College.

[McClatchy-Tribune Media Services] Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal aims to improve the finances of learning institutions like Citrus College.

For the first time in years, California’s community colleges may not have to tighten their belts again, if California Gov. Jerry Brown’s state budget proposal works the way he envisions it.
For Citrus College students, that means more classes and more services—which could translate into less time needed to transfer.

The 74-year-old governor and former member of the Los Angeles Community College District board of trustees recently released his first draft of the state budget, which typically undergoes a May revision. In compliance with the California Constitution, the state legislature must approve it by June 15.

The governor is clearly looking to improve the financial situations of the state’s educational systems, as he has proposed $56.2 billion in funding go to public education—an increase of $2.7 billion from last year.

The catalyst for the spending spree stems from Proposition 30, the voter-approved tax measure on the Nov. 7, 2012 state ballot. Its passage measure boosted state revenue by an estimated $6 billion, with a large portion specifically earmarked for education.

A projected $376 million in apportionment (funding per student) and deferral buyback dollars (money the state owes schools) would be distributed amongst California’s 112 community college campuses. Typically Citrus’s piece of the funding pie is one percent—in this budget scenario, a possible $3.76 million is on the table.

That means for the first time since 2008, the campus does not have to prepare itself for a midyear cut. Instead, according to dean of enrollment management Sam Lee, the campus will have added 206 sections since Prop. 30 passed.

“It’s a big, big increase for us, about 10 percent,” Lee said.

The student population is also expected to increase as more classes become available. However, that increase is being categorized as a “2 percent restoration,” Lee said, using the 2009-10 mark of 11,081 full-time equivalent students as the baseline for comparison, which dropped to under 10,000 in 2012. He estimates that it will be at least a year before the campus population exceeds those levels.

If Gov. Brown’s proposals are approved by the state legislature, the immediate future for California education will be secure from a financial standpoint—education funding from Prop. 30 revenue is projected to increase to $66 billion by 2016.

But despite the dearth of positive news, some campus officials are taking a more cautious approach.
“I think the reaction of everybody is [that] we’re optimistically guarded,” said vice president of finance and administrative services Carol Horton.

“The response to [the governor’s] proposals by the legislative analysts all are much more positive than they have been in the last five years—towards funding education as a whole, community colleges in particular. But it’s just the beginning of the budget process.”

Horton’s guarded optimism is based on experience, as the continual budget cuts since 2008 eventually led Citrus to eliminate class sections from traditionally larger fall semester in anticipation of funding shortfalls during the spring semester.

The increase in sections in the spring 2013 schedule has left more open seats in classes than usual compared to previous spring semesters.

As of Feb. 19, the day before spring classes started, enrollment levels were under 92 percent. By this point, the campus is usually operating at “98 to 99 percent capacity,” according to Lee.

However, campus officials say that they are expecting those seats to fill up once instruction begins.

“[Some of] those classes didn’t get into the schedule until some students had already registered,” said vice president of academic affairs Irene Malmgren, “so we really believe there are students out there who don’t know.”

“I think we’ll hit 100 percent… we grew fast,” Malmgren said. “I really believe that when students realize they can take one more class—that there’s a class available—they’ll start filling up.”

The last day for students to add non-late start classes is Mar. 2.