Community colleges are on the rise in the United States. Bolstered by support from the White House, such institutions are helping more and more people each year. They provide a cheaper alternative to university education, especially for getting general education courses out of the way. They offer classes at times that working students can actually attend and provide a variety of continuing education opportunities for people wishing to round out their education. They’re one of the most broadly beneficial aspects of the higher education system in this country.
Except in Arizona.
Recently, the Arizona legislature eliminated funding for the Maricopa and Pima Community College Districts. It’s not just a reduction in funding, which has been the trend in Arizona in recent years across higher education, but a complete denial of funding. Under this plan, those schools will receive no help.
Arizona, it would seem, doesn’t care about its students. Or, at least, the conservative legislators who hold the purse strings don’t. The people of Arizona most likely do, and it’s the people who will be hurt by this. Most injured will be those people who need community colleges in order to better their lives because they can’t afford to attend universities.
Community colleges reduce cost by doing away with many of the more elaborate and expensive services that universities offer, like huge sports complexes or extensive student housing. But they also do it by getting assistance from the states and local communities in which they operate, the very people they are there to help.
Investing in community colleges, which thankfully is the trend in most of the rest of the country, is good for everyone. It means more people can get an education or supplement their existing education and move into better jobs. Better jobs means higher standards of living and more taxes, which means, in a perfect world, more money for education.
But that requires thinking ahead, which the Arizona legislature seems incapable of doing.