AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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AFT Resolutions


WHEREAS, community colleges are open-access institutions serving as the entry point for millions of students across the nation, and currently serve 48 percent of undergraduate students—more than seven million nationally; and

WHEREAS, community colleges comprise 60 percent of public degree-granting institutions in the nation, but they received only 27 percent of total federal, state and local revenues for public degree-granting institutions in 2007–2008; and

WHEREAS, public community colleges nationwide serve a disproportionate number of students from underrepresented and underprivileged backgrounds—53 percent of Hispanic, 45 percent black, 45 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander and 52 percent of Native American undergraduates in 2007—and projections of U.S. population growth indicate that an increasing number of college students will come from these populations in the coming years; and

WHEREAS, because of systemic race and class inequalities in K–12 education and gross income disparities, community college students often have greater academic and financial needs than their counterparts at public four-year institutions; and

WHEREAS, public higher education as a whole is seriously underfunded, but at public community colleges—where nearly half of all college undergraduates are enrolled and where the percentages of poor students and students of color are highest—the underfunding is especially acute: In 2008, the most recent year for which figures are available, annual expenditures per full-time equivalent student at public community colleges were $11,732, while at four-year public colleges expenditures were $14,905; and

WHEREAS, community colleges' unique mission includes liberal arts education leading to associate degrees; developmental and remedial coursework for poorly prepared students, English language learners and older students returning to college; technical training certification programs; and foundation courses for students seeking a lower-cost education and who intend to transfer into baccalaureate degree programs; and

WHEREAS, community colleges are locally based and historically have been called on to respond to local and regional economic development needs in addition to their multiple other roles; thus, they have played a critical role in workforce development and retraining programs, a role that has grown in importance in the recent recession; and

WHEREAS, while public investment in public higher education institutions has been declining for at least a decade, the recession accelerated cutbacks in virtually every state, and the impact on community colleges has been severe: For example, public funding to community colleges nationwide declined 3.4 percent in 2009 alone; and

WHEREAS, at the same time, the economic crisis has generated greater demand for public community colleges, swelling enrollment nationwide by 17 percent over 2007–2008 and 11 percent in 2009; and

WHEREAS, more states are eliminating remedial and developmental courses from their public colleges and universities and requiring students with these needs to attend community colleges, thereby increasing enrollment pressure on the community colleges without providing additional funding; and

WHEREAS, despite the increased demand for community college education, the cutbacks in funding have forced public community colleges nationwide to increase tuition, increase class size, limit course offerings, create waiting lists, and in some cases close their doors to new students, as occurred in California in 2010, when 140,000 students were turned away; and

WHEREAS, there is growing evidence that these factors have contributed to a drop in community college enrollment: Community college enrollments have dropped 5.1 percent nationally from 2009 and 2010, even as the percentage of Pell Grant recipients among community college students has risen 17 percent, raising concern that continued underfunding is undermining community colleges' ability to maintain access during this period of sustained unemployment; and

WHEREAS, while the Obama administration's American Graduation Initiative calls for a 50 percent increase in community college graduates—nearly five million more graduates—which would require a massive and sustained funding increase, there has been little funding to date and the funding that has been available has been narrowly focused on workforce development:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will acknowledge the special and unique character and multiple missions of U.S. public community colleges and their role in providing access to higher education, especially for working-class families, women, students of color and immigrants; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will condemn the growing restrictions on admissions to U.S. public community colleges and the withdrawal of public support from these institutions; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will support the open-access mission of U.S. public community colleges through support for policies that recognize the special financial needs of community college students, such as free tuition; support for student living expenses, child care, textbooks and necessary equipment; and needs-based financial aid; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will seek financial support for educational programs for U.S. public community colleges that recognize the special educational needs of community college students, such as developmental education programs, intensive academic counseling, class size that permits intensive faculty-student interaction, and the opportunity to study with full-time faculty and equitably treated part-time faculty; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will call for public reinvestment in U.S. public community colleges through the pursuit of local, state and federal legislation, and for investment on the broadest, not the narrowest, understanding of the public community college mission.