Community colleges play a vastly under-appreciated role in the life of a town, a region and a state.
In California, we understand that better than most.
The California Community Colleges system, which serves over 2.1 million students, is the largest educational system, and largest workforce training provider, in the United States. In our community, Merced College is the largest institution of higher education, serving 17,000-plus students, and is one of the largest employers in Merced County.
As public servants serving Merced County residents and our neighbors, we are deeply committed to the idea that Merced College, among other community colleges, helps spur local economic growth, encourages innovation, and anchors the communities it serves.
We do our best to maintain that significant resource through action.
As the Assemblymember representing the College in the State Legislature, and a proud Merced College graduate myself, I work hard and advocate on its behalf every day in Sacramento. Last year, I helped secure state matching funds in the 2019 budget for the new Merced College Agriculture and Industrial Technology Building.
And, we were both strong advocates for the development of one of the first comprehensive resource centers, dedicated solely to veterans, in the California Community College system — the 1st Lt. Peter J. Gallo Veterans’ Resource Center at Merced College.
But, there is more work to be done. Now, it’s time for our communities to come together to help Merced College, which needs our collective support on March 3, 2020 when Measure J is on the ballot. With your support, we’ll succeed in helping a dynamic college grow to enhance workforce training and four-year college preparation with much-needed campus improvements, safety enhancements, modernization, and new construction.
This initiative will support those in our community who need it the most.
Merced College has served more than 300,000 students in this community over a 55-year period. This past year alone, it enrolled more than 17,000 students and conferred a record-number 2,700 degrees and certificates—an approximate 27 percent increase from the previous year. And, more than 50 percent of those who walk through their doors are first-generation students, nearly 80 percent of whom receive some form of financial assistance.
Better yet, the school is engaging our younger generations. We are proud of the work Merced College is doing to serve our high school population, recently experiencing a 243 percent growth in dual enrollment programs. This creates the “college-going” culture many young people desire, reduces long-term costs of higher education for local families, and prepares students to easily transition to Merced College after high school graduation.
California, standing alone, would have the fifth-largest economy in the world. We believe that the health of both our state and federal economies depends on what we do over the next decade.
As your elected representatives in Washington, D.C. and in Sacramento, we will continue to push our federal and state governments to help community colleges expand to serve more people with high-quality and affordable education.
We know we must support California community colleges with as much fervor, skill and energy as we can. We care deeply about the success of Merced College and hope you will find ways to support them this upcoming election.
Because we believe the health and vitality of our Merced, Los Banos, and surrounding communities depend on our collective support of Merced College, your community college.
Jim Costa represents California’s 16th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Adam Gray represents California’s 21st District in the State Assembly.