NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Glendale Community College administrators are starting to turn up the heat on local lawmakers, urging them to be cautious when weighing proposed state budget cuts that they say disproportionally target two-year colleges, potentially forcing thousands of students out of classrooms.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed $940 million in cuts to community colleges over the next two years, in an effort to make up for lost revenues caused by the failure of key ballot measures during the state’s May 19 special election.
While the proposed cuts to community colleges are substantial, other state programs — like CalWORKS, which provides financial assistance to low income families — have been put on the chopping block for complete elimination, said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the California Department of Finance.
Under Schwarzenegger’s proposal, Glendale Community College would lose $9 million over two years, on top of the $4 million in payments the state has withheld from administrators in recent months because of California’s cash shortage, said Ron Nakasone, interim vice president of administrative services.
Administrators anticipate cuts of that magnitude could force classroom reductions that would leave 16,000 college students without classroom seats, Nakasone said.
“People are concerned and they’re worried, and they’re wondering what’s going to happen,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to offer the same level of services that we have.”
The proposed cuts could hit students with disabilities the hardest because their support services are funded by special grants that could be slashed by up to 60%, Nakasone said.
Those kinds of reductions could create barriers for some students hoping to attend classes at the college, said Lisa Brooks, executive director of the college’s foundation.
“All the services that provide the support to them in order to be able to compete are going to be in jeopardy of being cut,” Brooks said.
Students with a variety of disabilities are able to enter the workforce after taking classes at the college that now could be at risk of losing major support, said Joy Cook, associate dean at the college’s center for students with disabilities.
Blind students are able to use special software at the college to type essays and even browse the Internet, listening to computers read back on-screen text as they move along.
Other students get help from college employees during exercise and fitness classes, or interact with sign language interpreters during lessons, Cook said.
Those services could be in jeopardy of being severely trimmed, she said.
The proposed reductions could also affect low-income students, as administrators consider the possibility of slashing financial aid support staff, who counsel students trying to pay for college, Nakasone said.
Schwarzenegger has also proposed eliminating the CalGrant scholarship program, and the state’s legislative analyst has suggested hiking community college fees from $20 a unit to more than $60 a unit, Nakasone said.
“A lot of the students are not able to afford going to universities, or they’re turning to community colleges in greater numbers, and we’re really hoping that we’ll be able to continue that process because it’s very important to the economic recovery,” Brooks said.