[guest post by JVW]
Here’s a pretty incredible — but all too believable — story from CalMatters news:
[. . .] [H]istorically the California higher education system works like this: The University of California awards doctorate degrees, the UC and California State University award bachelor’s degrees and community colleges offer vocational training and associate degrees that students can utilize to transfer to UCs or CSUs.
But in 2021, a new law allowed the Community College Chancellor’s Office to establish as many as 30 new bachelor programs every year at any of its 116 colleges, as long as they weren’t “duplicative” of any existing programs at state universities.
Enter: Feather River College, a 1,300-student community college located in rural Plumas County, an area threatened by wildfires. It wants to award bachelor’s degrees in fire management, but Cal Poly Humboldt, 270 miles away, says that program duplicates its yet-to-be-created bachelor’s program.
Think about that. Rather than understand that Feather Ridge might have a pretty pointed need for competent fire management professionals and that educating them locally would maximize convenience and cost-effectiveness to the prospective students, Cal Poly Humboldt (formerly known as Cal State Humboldt or Humboldt State; they were designated a polytechnic campus just this past year) is pulling rank and demanding that prospective fire management students from counties like Plumas or Shasta or Modoc or Lassen make the four-hour journey to attend a CSU campus, where they naturally pay more in tuition and have to arrange for room and board. It would be akin to Santa Barbara City College, nestled in one of the most scenic academic environments around, wanting to offer a degree in ocean conservation but San Diego State demanding those students matriculate down the coast to its campus instead.
So one would think that good progressive California Democrats would take the side of the small scrappy upstart community college over the big four-year state university, right? After yammering on and on for years about the exorbitant price of college education and the stifling levels of student debt, they would move heaven and earth to prevent young scholars from having to travel far afield to pursue their educational dreams, wouldn’t they? Nah, they’re taking the side of Goliath over David.
In a letter to the Chancellor of California’s Community College system, Assembly Education Chair Mike Fong and Senate Education Chair Josh Newman suggested that Feather Ridge “pause” their application for the bachelors degree so that — and here comes flying the bureaucrat-speak — “an intersegmental workgroup [can] convene in order to discuss a resolution process for disputes and further define the duplicative consultation processes, and to better define program duplication.” That seems to be the long-winded way of writing “stay in your lane, community college, and don’t try to encroach on the CSU’s territory.” The idea here appears to be to delay Feather Ridge’s application long enough so that Cal Poly Humboldt can get its program up-and-running, at which point Feather Ridge will be told, “Sorry, but your proposed degree already exists at a Cal State school.”
So what gives? Why are Democrats in the legislature so hostile to community colleges? Is it because both Newman (of Brea) and Fong (of Monterey Park) represent urban/suburban districts and thus don’t like the rural forest goobers honing in on coastal turf (though Humboldt County isn’t exactly being scouted as the location for the next Baywatch reboot)? Is it the fact that the Cal State schools generate more economic activity for the state than the community colleges do? Is it because Plumas County votes Republican (2020: Trump 57%, Biden 41%; 2022: Dahle 62%, Newsom 38%) and therefore must be punished for the apostasy? Does it have anything to do with Plumas County being 90% white in a state which is now majority-minority?
Lizette Naverette, the interim deputy chancellor of the California Community Colleges expressed surprise at the letter, and she wondered aloud if this wasn’t indeed a stalling mechanism used to give Cal Poly Humboldt more time to launch their own program. She acknowledged that other community colleges are encountering the same roadblocks when trying to create bachelor’s programs in health fields (you think California can’t use a whole lot more nurses, technicians, and assorted healthcare workers?) and other disciplines which actually lead to good jobs.
Progressive Democrats, especially those in the Golden State, like to pontificate a great deal about “equity,” a nebulous and malleable concept which seems to align perfectly with whatever desired outcome the left currently has its eyes set upon. Certainly it ought to mean creating educational opportunities in rural parts of the state commensurate to the needs of those local communities, but when that runs afoul of the territorial nature of a progressivism’s biggest backers, well, those wildfires are just going to have to burn a few more seasons.