Friday, December 19, 2014
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For Community College Students Seeking New Careers in Health

 If all goes as planned, the stimulus signed by President Barack Obama this week will result in an unprecedented, multibillion-dollar boost in financial help for students trying to pursue a degree while they ride out the recession.

L.A.'s nine Community Colleges are clearly the big winners in the President's stimulus plan. Now is the time to ensure those monies are allocated responsibly to ensure students, faculty and staff at these institutions receive what they are entitled to.

Congress is calling for the largest-ever funding increase for Pell Grants, the government's chief college aid program for low-income students. People who are struggling to pay for college would get a $2,500 tax credit for tuition and other education-related expenses. Eligible community college students would also receive higher Pell Grants, thanks to a $400 boost in the maximum grant to $5,250.

California will receive hundreds of millions of dollars to kick-start idled campus construction projects and help prevent tuition increases at a time when families can least afford them.

This relief comes just in time, as thousands of L.A. County residents are trying to turn their job layoff pink slips into new career opportunities. As more and more local workers get laid off, they will come to rely even more heavily on community colleges to learn new job skills and move into new career occupations.

But the good news we are receiving on the federal level is offset by bad news here at home. Our State is in fiscal crisis. We're still waiting on passage of the revised State budget for the fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2009. The impact on our community colleges is substantial. In our L.A. Community College District, we expect to lose $28 million dollars in deferred payments from the state.

Some of our nine colleges will have to cut classes. Some won't be able to fill some needed faculty and staff positions. This is happening at a time when our colleges have an 11% increase in enrollment.

Laid-off workers and military veterans are coming to our colleges in droves seeking new career opportunities and job training. Students who are turned away from our state's four-year public universities are coming to our community colleges to earn general education units and meet their transfer requirements.

Whenever our local economy suffers, our community college enrollment increases. It's not just laid off workers filling the classrooms. More students planning to go to 4-year universities are choosing to spend the first two at community colleges to save money.

Right now, things are tough for everyone. Yet despite our challenging fiscal issues, there are occupations where demand is high for skilled workers. The field of nursing is one of those occupations.

Whether it's dental assistants, medical assistants, homecare aides or skilled nursing assistants, the medical field is searching for workers. Healthcare provides rewarding, good-paying, recession-proof jobs that can be found throughout our county.

Right now, the demand for nurses exceeds supply. As our county's huge population grows older and experienced nurses retire or reduce their hours, the shortfall in the supply of nurses worsens. Community colleges have a role to play in solving the nursing shortage. Our colleges provide affordable nursing education.

The California Allied Health Care Workforce Program found that a single year of nursing education in a private, for-profit institution could cost more than $20,000 per year. The same nursing education at one of our community colleges cost approximately $1,200 per year. The educational cost benefit to nursing students is clear.

Nursing shortages severely impacts the economic and business growth throughout L.A. County. More nurses in Los Angeles mean more hospital beds can be staffed--that's a positive health and economic outcome that our local chambers of commerce, business leaders and taxpayers can understand and support.

Moreover, the "allied health workforce" of diagnostic, technical, therapeutic direct patient care and support services are the key ingredients in maintaining and improving the health status of our region.

As a trustee on the LA Community Colleges Board, I understand first-hand that we also need participation from everyone to build a culturally sensitive workforce--one that is better equipped to understand the needs of a growing and diverse community. The most important issue for all Californians in 2009 is the economy.

I'm proud to say that community colleges are at the forefront of making sure citizens can get the jobs they need to get them back on their feet and on the road to financial recovery.

 

Category: Op-Ed




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