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Ryan Bent is running for Re-Election to maintain his Trustee Area 7 role, in order to ensure that the NOCCCD’s colleges continually improve experiences for students, professors, staff, and administration by prioritizing the focus on delivering extraordinary value for the taxpayers and students who fund them.  Area 7 is elected by residents of Yorba Linda, Brea, and La Habra Heights, along with portions of La Habra, Fullerton and Placentia.  In staggered election years, Trustees are elected to the board on 4-year terms representing seven different areas in order to ensure geographic diversity.

The NOCCCD is dedicated to serving the Northern Orange County cities of Anaheim, Fullerton, Yorba Linda, Cypress, Buena Park, Placentia, Brea, La Habra, La Habra Heights, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Placentia, Rossmoor, Garden Grove, La Mirada, Orange, Seal Beach, Stanton and Whittier.  In 2014 and by 15 votes over the 55% required, the voters of these cities approved a $574 million bond (Measure J) to improve the colleges.  In 2002, the voters passed a $239 million bond (Measure X) to improve the district’s college facilities.  As a result, currently taxpayers are paying $16.09 per $100,000 assessed property value for Measure X which will be paid through the year 2028 and for Measure J, taxpayers are currently paying $14.34 per $100,000 assessed property value which will be paid through the year 2051.  On one hand, the taxpayers’ decisions will surely benefit generations of students and there have already been numerous improvements made with more already planned. 

It is of the utmost importance to monitor the budgets of these projects to ensure the district is receiving a maximized value for every dollar.  For the more recent Measure J, it is a time for accountability to ensure that these funds are being used for what they were intended for.  The way it was written was vague which gives the district a lot of flexibility with specific project budgets but there was an overarching intent which was promised to the taxpayers so it is crucial to be transparent purposeful throughout the duration of those expenditures in order to be accountable to the people who work very hard to pay for these improvements.

Community Colleges are not immune to the laws of economics.  The periods in California community college history that brought declining enrollment have typically occurred when one of two things happen: 1) major budget cuts in past decades caused there to be less courses offered and taken and caused students to leave.  2) Tuition and fee increases have brought declines as well.  Additionally the overall success of the economy or lack thereof also cause fluctuations as the long-term value must outweigh the opportunity cost or short-term sacrifice that going to college demands.  The cost of living in and around the North Orange County Community College District makes the sacrifice for some far greater than in other parts of the country.  It is vital that value continues to be maximized for the students as the community college system offers an excellent education and is still the most economic path for college or vocational training. 

As of the last Strategic Plan, the community college system had begun to consider offering Bachelor’s Degrees at community colleges and what that would look like.  The initial concept would be to offer programs that are unique and don’t conflict or directly compete with the established 4-year California Universities.  NOCCCD recently partnered with Cal State Fullerton to Baccalaureate Degree Summit which is the first such event locally.  NOCCCD’s shared the following summit news on their webpage, “According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the State will need approximately 1 million more workers with bachelor’s degrees by 2025. To help alleviate this shortage, Cypress College is one of 15 community colleges to take part in the baccalaureate degree pilot program. Additionally, NOCCCD—under the direction of Dr. Joyce Carrigan, Dean of the Baccalaureate Degree Pilot Program—is tasked with overseeing a $750,000 state-wide grant to ensure their success.”

The California Community Colleges system has a headquarters but unlike the University of California or California State Universities, the 113 community colleges are much more decentralized in their management and decision making.  The community college system collectively serves 2.1 million students.  A top-down Strategic Plan provides useful data, trends, an overall vision for the system and suggestions on how to address specific challenges that most community colleges are facing.  The Strategic Plan is intended as a guide however as the local Community Colleges have autonomy to assess their own specific challenges and utilize their discretionary portions of their budget funds to work independently on resolutions. 

Several overarching challenges have been identified statewide.  Some of these include: changes in demographics overtime, educational challenges, how to better align statewide educational policies, how to improve college awareness and access, how to improve student success and readiness, how to improve partnerships for economic and workforce development, overall system effectiveness, and resource development.  Many issues revolve around a few factors.  First, California’s high school graduation rate is only at 76% overall and only 52% of all freshman high school students will ever step foot in a college classroom. 

A significant percentage of incoming college students are assessed to be not be ready without taking remedial courses, which is what they are for so students must not get discouraged but that becomes a barrier to success for some.  However, those who somehow argue to skip a remedial course they were assessed to take, often fail the course especially in math courses.  Awareness and access are going to be growing issues and community colleges need to do a better job of partnership with high schools to get students excited about their future educational path from a pre-High School age.  High School success for not only graduations but college readiness is not something the community college districts should have to focus time and energy on but failure at lower levels of education impact every level of education and as a state, the people must collectively demand better.