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Voters can contribute to higher education Denise Whittaker | Sat, Feb 26 2011 12:00 PM

It all starts at community college.

Community colleges are the workhorses of higher education: efficient and cost-effective, training people in a wide range of fields and helping them quickly launch their careers.

San Diego and Imperial counties' community colleges offer classes in today's cutting-edge, sustainable industries, allowing graduates to find good-paying jobs that will be available for years.

Our graduates contribute to the state's knowledge and tax base, making it competitive domestically and globally. In fact, if two percent more Californians had associate's degrees and another one percent earned bachelor's degrees, California's economy would grow by $20 billion, increasing state and local tax revenues by $1.2 billion a year and creating 174,000 new jobs.

Our local colleges are prepared to make difficult choices like every other public institution in the State. But remember - supporting education is, in essence, supporting the State's economy. Even if tax extensions are passed and the Proposition 98 funding mechanism for K-12 and community colleges remains intact, California's community colleges are poised to face a $400 million cut in the governor's proposed budget.

These reductions are in addition to the tens of millions of dollars that our local colleges have already shaved off. Without those tax extensions, and if Proposition 98 funding is reduced, the cuts could total nearly $1 billion.

That's why we support Governor Brown's plan to place tax extensions before the public. We also urge the governor and legislature to keep community college fees affordable, and ask that any increase be moderate and any revenues generated from increases be directed back towards reducing the $400 million cut.

Our colleges offer programs that train students for careers as solar and wind turbine technicians and installers, radiation protection technicians and hybrid vehicle technicians. We train most of our region's nurses, dental hygienists, police offers, firefighters and paramedics. Statewide, we award more than 125,000 degrees and certificates a year and prepare 55 percent of California State University and 30 percent of University of California students to earn bachelor's degrees. But even more, we help local students start a career, earn a stable income and support their families, or transfer to four-year universities.

Many of you had your start at a community college. Help us give that same start to tens of thousands of new students by putting the tax extensions on the June ballot and voting for them. We are confident that Californians, when given the opportunity, will demonstrate they believe in education and in bolstering the local economy. If you help us maintain funding to train these future employees, we will help make California the most vibrant economy in the nation once again.

Whittaker is the interim Superintendent/President of Southwestern College.


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