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The experiences of low-income, Latino/a students at a time of budget cuts in the California community college
Budget cuts have become an invasive force within the California Community College system, leading to the down-sizing of course offerings and services and the internal restructuring of how funding is allocated. This coincides with the growth of enrollment in the California Community College system, especially amongst the low-income Latino/a student population. To address diminished funding at the state level, policymakers have had to make choices about how to continue operations with diminished capacity. Furthermore, the prospect of diminishing funds into the foreseeable future has also influenced the development of new philosophical trends seeking to re-make California Community Colleges as more economically viable within the context of the "free market." This has influenced the cutting of needs-based programs such as the Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS), which disproportionately serves low-income Latino/a students. Since the cutting of these funds directly affects this student population, it influenced the development of this study. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to analyze how low-income Latino/a students that are enrolled in needs-based programs in the community college experienced the implementation of budget cuts. It was also intended to understand student perceptions of the nature of the cuts in the community college system, including reductions in state-funded, need-based programs such as EOPS. The study involved two sets of interviews based on student and faculty perceptions. Eleven students enrolled in Frontier Community College and also in the EOPS Program were interviewed, as well as two Frontier Community College staff members. While the focus of the study is student perceptions, the staff members' interviews were included to show another perspective of student experience. The research questions were: (a) how do low-income Latino/a students enrolled in EOPS perceive the affect of education budget cuts on their persistence in the community college?; and (b) how do low-income Latino/a students in the EOPS program perceive the nature of the budget cuts? The study used the qualitative method, a phenomenological approach, and was framed using the advocacy/participatory worldview. Data were analyzed using the methods of content analysis and discourse analysis. For research question 1, analysis of the research yielded the themes of Diminished Access, Reduced Support, and Delayed Completion pertaining to student perceptions of their experiences. For research question 2, analysis of the research yielded the themes of Devaluation of Education and Race & Class Discrimination pertaining to student perceptions of the nature of the budget cuts. For the staff, the themes of Reduced Access and Services and Inequity emerged from their perceptions of student experiences and the nature of budget cuts, validating the student perceptions. Implications of the results for research and practice are discussed in the context of the budget cuts and the responsibilities of the California Community College system in providing quality education for low-income, Latino/a students.
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) San Diego State University, 2011
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