Thursday, February 10, 2005

An Exception

A few months ago, I swore off openly political blog entries, on the grounds that I didn’t have anything to offer there that wasn’t easily available elsewhere. I’ve stuck to that rule, and plan to continue to, but I have to make an exception for something that will absolutely eviscerate community colleges.

Bush's proposal to increase the Pell grant maximum by a whopping 2.4% a year got the headlines; what got ignored was, if you read the fine print, he’ll pay for it by ELIMINATING Perkins funding for equipment for community colleges. Right now, and for many years now, community colleges (are/have been) able to pay for equipment for ‘career-oriented’ programs through federal Perkins grants. At my college, we spend several million a year on equipment for programs that equip students for employment (as opposed to transfer to a four-year school). Programs like hospitality management, graphic design, photography, and nursing (!) rely heavily on Perkins funding. We couldn’t afford to run them without it, barring some huge infusion of cash from the county or state (ha!).

In the State of the Union address, he quickly mentioned community colleges, praising our workforce development contributions. Leaving aside that we do more than that, the fact that he wants to eliminate the funding that makes it possible for us to DO workforce development is simply appalling. In the short term, we’ll have to make up the difference by raising tuition, which is probably fine by him – conservatives like to fund public goods with ‘user fees,’ which completely defeats the purpose of public goods. It’s like charging you every time you call the police. It’s objectively insane, but you gotta pay for all those tax cuts and wars somehow.

(As it stands, our annual tuition is far enough below the existing Pell cap that raising the cap won’t net us a dime. Anybody who bothered to investigate the community college sector would know that’s true nationally.)

Bush is a fraud, a fool, and a knave. That he would have the gall to kill us as he praises us is both shocking and, somehow, not. Shame on him, and shame on everyone who voted for him.

Enough politics for today. I have to start revising equipment budgets downward.