Report: Florida community colleges already over the cliff
Florida's community college system is featured in this month's edition of National Crosstalk, a journal of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
And not in a good way.
Writer Robert A. Jones, a former reporter and columnist for the Los Angeles Times, says the state's two-year colleges are bearing the brunt of the recession and a $12 billion drop in state tax revenues over the past two years. And Miami Dade College -- for years a national leader in generating associate's degrees and erasing the achievement gap for minority students -- has become the "poster child of broken budgets."
"The system has collapsed here," said president Eduardo Padron. "We can't hire faculty to teach students, and our buildings are deteriorating and breaking down. Thousands and thousands of students have been turned away, which has never happened in our history."
The story highlights the night of June 17, when 30,000 students were blocked from registering for the class of their choice due to budget cutbacks, and 5,000 couldn't enroll at all.
Jones notes the growing disparity in per-student funding between community colleges and four-year schools, both in Florida and nationally. But Miami Dade falls into a category of its own, with 35,000 unfunded students this year -- the equivalent of the entire undergraduate population of the University of Florida.
"If we are forced to keep rejecting these students, I fear we are headed for some kind of social breakdown," said Padron, the college president. "You simply can't deprive people of a way upward."
Tom Marshall, Times Staff Writer