California Minimum Wage vs Community College Unit Cost

Community colleges have traditionally offered an excellent opportunity for students from lower income households and have served as a bridge to 4-year Universities.  So it’s interesting to note how the cost of community college units in California have far outpaced the state’s minimum wage.  It’s important to note that CA has one of the highest minimum wages in the US and community colleges in CA have traditionally been among the most affordable in the country.

california minimum wage vs community college unit costs Sources:

Until 1985, community college units in CA were actually free.  But starting this year, they were $5/unit, and at this time the minimum wage was $3.35/hr.   In 2000, CC units were $11/unit and the minimum wage was $5.75/hr.  Today these figures are $46/unit and $8/hour respectively.
This is the sort of collateral damage the Republican war on revenues is costing us.  Contrary to what GOP politicians would have us believe, this isn’t merely about funding for social safety net programs, but programs like the community college system which have long helped lower income individuals work their way up the way Republicans claim they want to see happen.

It’s important to note that states, unlike the federal government are required to maintain balanced budgets and can’t simply run deficits to be paid down over the years.  What this means is when revenues tank during recessions, states are more likely to have to make painful cuts in spending.  While the stimulus package did include some help for state governments, in order to get the bill passed through Congress, a few Republican votes were needed (it’s important to keep in mind the handful of Democrats who were borderline Republicans)–and the only way those few Republicans would agree to support the bill, was if $100 billion of help to states were cut.

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