Keeping teachers safe is a priority, but doing so may cost some their jobs.
Opinion by Isaac Dektor, Staff Writer
California's community colleges will not be requiring students to be vaccinated before returning to the classroom this fall, a decision that is necessary to avoid further deficits and budget cuts.
Some may be hesitant to receive the novel vaccinations, and the district cannot afford to drive away potential students. Keeping enrollment up at a time when LACCD is struggling to attract students to attend its colleges is vital to the survival of each individual school.
With enrollment numbers down district wide, the issue of safe reopening collides uncomfortably with an ongoing economic problem for community colleges.
While some see a vaccination mandate as a necessity in order to safely reopen campuses, others worry that such a rule may deter some students when deciding whether to attend college.
Chauncey Maddren, Valley College’s academic senate president, believes that educators would have more success in making vaccinations viable to students.
“Rather than a mandate, we could do better with a program of promotion, education and availability,” Maddren said.
In terms of enrollment, some colleges in the district excel more than others. According to the LACCD website, Mission College’s enrollment over the last five school terms peaked this year and East LA has 830 more students than in 2015-2016. Throughout the district, the overall trend is of decline.
Given the circumstances, the district faces a difficult situation. However, statewide herd immunity — the protection of California’s population from COVID-19 through vaccinations — may not necessitate a mandate. The vaccination rate is already high without legislation that requires adult students to receive vaccinations before attending classes. According to the Los Angeles Times, over 47 percent of the population of California have already received at least one dose.
While it is still unclear what it will take to reach herd immunity, for polio the threshold was roughly 80 percent according to the World Health Organization.
The decision to require vaccinations for students attending California’s public universities while not having the same legislation for community colleges reinforces the economic issues at play.
Colleges are often considered prestigious based on the proportion of students they reject each year. Community colleges receive both admiration and admonition for not having this characteristic.
According to U.S. News, the average acceptance rate of Cal State LA is 48 percent, meaning that the university receives many more applicants than it can accept.
Having too many eager students who wish to attend state and private universities puts those colleges in an advantageous position to dictate the terms under which students must conform if they wish to attend in-person classes.
Cal State Universities can afford a vaccine mandate because they have a surplus of applicants while community colleges are left to twirl a sign on a street corner that reads “education without vaccination!”
If enrollment continues to go down then budget cuts will occur as they did this year at San Francisco City College after enrollment dropped 18 percent in a year.
According to the SF Bay Area Gazette, the San Francisco college laid off 200 employees, teachers and administrators, as the college reported a $33 million budget deficit this year.
COVID-19 poses a serious threat to the health and safety of teachers and unvaccinated students accentuate that threat. However, the uncomfortable reality is that driving away students and bringing enrollment down will cause the jobs within each college to contract and disappear.