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Who did we build community colleges for?

A recent article in Insider (formerly Business Insider) discussed the impact of “promise” programs on diversity in enrollment. A second piece, an editorial, in the Washington (PA) Observer-Reporter opined that extending Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to community college students during the pandemic is “a necessary step.” These items provide confirmation – for anyone who needs it – of who we build community colleges for.

Low-income earners benefit most from community colleges. They’re minorities and women. They’re people who have dropped out of the educational system or entered the workforce out of high school. Single parents fill our community colleges, as do people who have lost their jobs. In general, community colleges are resources for people without resources. When you offer the opportunity to escape poverty, you’re probably going to get a positive response.

It’s always “a necessary step” to offer food to people without it. But for some reason, it takes a pandemic for certain people to realize that college students can be poor, too. And but for byzantine rules regarding program eligibility, poor college students would also qualify for SNAP benefits.

So, when you see “promise” programs drawing in large numbers of minority students, and college students qualifying for food assistance, the canny observer might also realize that students at community colleges may not be able to afford $10/credit hour fees or massive tuition hikes.

WCC Trustees have forgotten who community colleges are for

Unfortunately, WCC has Trustees who are completely out of touch with what it takes to be a student these days. They’re not tuned into how difficult it is to afford community college tuition, even when it’s among the state’s lowest. They don’t realize that food insecurity and housing insecurity and job insecurity are very real conditions. Coming up with $10 per credit hour to cover Trustees’ poor spending authorizations is a tall order for some students.

I’m not sure why this is the case, but the need for money somehow never involves spending reductions. It doesn’t involve NOT hiring that 10th Vice President, or the 45th Director of _____________. It never involves responsible stewardship of the taxpayers’ dollars.

So, the “incentive pay” for the highest-paid executives continues with nobody asking why we need to further incentivize people who are already paid more than anyone else. Isn’t simply having a job enough incentive to do that job? Meanwhile, the Trustees have the temerity to expect students who qualify for need-based scholarships and food stamps to pony up an additional $10 per credit hour because the College doesn’t have enough money to build a building no one needs, and the Trustees are afraid to ask the taxpayers.

They seem not to remember exactly who we build community colleges for.

Photo Credit: Congressman Jared Huffman , via Flickr