Unit cap limits educational freedom

Life as a cynic can be crummy at times. You often feel compelled to speak out against seemingly perfect solutions for no other reason than the sake of arguing.

Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal set to take effect later this year has been causing quite a conundrum.

The part that has attracted my attention is the governor's proposed changes to higher education, specifically community colleges.

Brown has big plans for California's community college system, which, made up of 112 campuses, is the largest system of higher education in the world.

The proposed budget will increase funding to California community colleges, which will receive a five percent increase in funding this year. In addition, the budget provides $16 million to community colleges to be used for greater online class offerings.

So far, so good, right? Wrong. More state funding for schools under Brown's budget means threatened opportunities for long-term students.

According to the governor's budget summary, less than 30 percent of degree-seeking students at community colleges complete a degree, earn a certificate or transfer within six years, which seems to say that 70 percent of us are not doing our "job."

In an effort to put students back on the road to transferring and degree completion, the state is threatening to deny financial aid to all students who exceed 90 completed units.

"This policy will encourage students to identify an educational goal and reach it in a timely and efficient way, focusing on the courses necessary to complete their educational goals, while still allowing for some exploration of other subject areas," said Brown in the budget.

The 90-unit cap is crap. College is a time of personal growth and soul searching for the youth. There is no reason why the community college experience should be any different.

The budget itself states that under the proposed model, students will be able to explore some, but not all, subject areas they desire to study. This limitation of discovery at a learning institution is stifling.

I am appalled that the government would so carelessly forsake all students who pass the 90-unit cap just because they do not fit into cookie-cutter education projections.

What is worse is that funding to 112 community college campuses will be dependent upon completion rates instead of attendance. Also, the budget proposal will restrict students from retaking courses just to improve their GPA.

These measures have been put in place with the hope of making community colleges more efficient, but I believe they will have the opposite effect.

Students are now faced with increased class offerings, but decreased ability to explore and benefit from them.

Students will now have to exercise caution when planning their schedule for fear of exceeding the 90-unit cap and losing financial aid.

We already have the course repeat rule; there should be no unnecessary tampering with it. The added pressure of not being able to retake a class may interfere with students' performance, especially students new to higher education.

In addition, the completion-based funding model puts pressure on instructors to pass failing students for fear of losing funding.

The budget is a foolish, short-sighted paradigm that will do nothing but create an atmosphere of fear and stress in one of America's pivotal education systems.

I am all for increased funding, but not with the current stipulations. If enforced, the California Community college system as we know it will crumble to ruin.