Opinion: Now Is the Worst Time to Shortchange Community Colleges

Across the nation, we are seeing what happens when workers do not have economic security. Working families are having to choose between their health and paying their bills. COVID-19 has put everyone in a state of vulnerability, especially persons who live in underfunded communities.

We are witnessing high numbers of COVID-19 cases, still. And countless people are being impacted directly or indirectly by the virus. Many of them are students and employees of Maryland’s community colleges.

Community colleges strengthen communities. They are designed to offer educational resources and services that inspire and enrich students. In the midst of this crisis, Prince George’s Community College continues to be essential to the community. At the beginning of the pandemic, in less than a week, my colleagues and I reformatted our courses for online learning and embraced an extensive virtual academic environment. But all that effort does not erase disparities in education, the lack of access and the overwhelming need for resources.

Adequate resources, particularly digital learning resources, are vital tools for students and faculty to succeed and thrive in a virtual learning environment.

Unfortunately, such resources are in jeopardy. On Capitol Hill, the Senate is stalling on its vote for the HEROES Act. At the state level, the Cade Funding Formula has been undermined.

What is the Cade Funding Formula? According to the Maryland Association of Community Colleges, the Cade Funding Formula was created to provide community colleges with predictable support for operations, and to provide students with affordable tuition. The state has changed the Cade Formula seven times in 10 years, each time postponing full funding. This year, underfunding could not have come at a worse time.

Following the Cade Funding Formula would build in money that could pay adjunct professors adequately, secure instructional resources, and maintain our schools. But, in this moment, corporations are being put ahead of students and the public services that are supporting our communities during this crisis.

Working people across the country are contacting their U.S. senators and demanding that they protect all workers and provide federal aid to support public services, including public higher education, by voting in favor of the HEROES Act. If you want a strong future for our next generation, the time to act is now.

As an educator and community organizer, I know that resources exist in abundance, but often are not accessed until we come together and demand it.

No student should have to choose whether to pay their bills or continue their education. Neither should we expect students and faculty to choose their classes over their personal safety. Ensuring that public schools and colleges are fully funded, accessible and able to reopen safely for all students is critical for our recovery as a community and should not be open for debate.

We must demand that the U.S. Senate prioritize everyday people and the public services our communities rely on to get through this crisis. Call 844-967-2163 and tell senators to pass the HEROES Act.

LATOYA ROBINSON

The writer is an adjunct professor at Prince George’s Community College, a community organizer, and a member of SEIU Local 500.