California has seen 3 million new unemployment claims filed in recent months, and the state proposed a $740 million budget cut to its community college system. But California's two year colleges are drawing from lessons learned during the last recession to cope with mounting challenges amid the pandemic.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the system, which enrolls more than 2 million students across 115 campuses, talked with us about how the colleges are preparing for the fall. He described how the system has become more flexible for students, and why its leaders aren't counting on a federal bailout.

To help broaden Oakley's perspective to the rest of the nation's community colleges, we also spoke with Karen Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, and the former president of Montgomery County Community College.

This episode is sponsored by the ECMC Foundation, which supports building a postsecondary education system that works for all learners through its grant making focus areas of College Success and Career Readiness.

 

Episode 7 Transcript

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Many colleges were facing financial pressure before the pandemic. But the crisis has exacerbated those challenges and stoked more questions about the sustainability of colleges with shaky finances.

Many questions loom about remote learning in coming months. Will online offerings from colleges be more sophisticated? What steps need to be taken to ensure academic quality in online learning? And will short-term credentials be more popular?

In roughly a month, many colleges and universities are planning to welcome back students to campus-based learning. But surging COVID-19 cases across much of the country have kept college administrators busy adjusting their plans.

The pandemic has exposed and worsened equity gaps in higher education, as its impacts have been felt most by Black, Latino and lower-income Americans. What policies and incentives could help close those gaps?

A possibly steep decline in enrollments of international students is among the wide range of disruptions U.S. colleges face this fall. To get an entrepreneurial take on what to watch in coming months, we spoke with two experts with global perspectives on higher education and ed tech.

The pandemic and unrest over racism in society have further exposed existing inequity in higher education and the workforce. For example, survey data from the Strada Education Network show that black and Latino Americans are more likely than white Americans to have been laid off during the crisis, and to have changed or canceled their postsecondary education plans.

Several colleges and universities have eliminated intercollegiate sports teams in recent weeks, just as big-time college football gears up for a season filled with uncertainty amid a time of great unrest over racism in society.

The University of Alaska, Anchorage, in recent years has experienced its share of tight budgets and other crises, including an earthquake and merger proposals.

The California State University system announced on May 12 that its fall term would be mostly online. The system was the first major U.S. university to make this move, and the announcement set off a flurry of news media coverage and debate among policy makers and college leaders.

Earlier this year, most of higher education moved its instruction online in a matter of days or weeks. After making this unprecedented shift, and amid great uncertainty, faculty members and college leaders are scrambling to prepare and improve online learning options for the fall.

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