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Los_Rios.JPGA California budget proposal to increase community college enrollment with an emphasis on the neediest districts should focus on the Inland Empire, the Central Valley and Los Angeles, according to California Competes.

A new report from the Oakland-based higher education policy institute argues that these regions should receive the vast majority of a proposed $155.2 million in new funding for enrollment growth next year, which Gov. Jerry Brown has prioritized for districts with "the greatest unmet need in adequately serving their community's higher educational needs."

The report examined factors such as the number of adults without a college degree, unemployment rates and levels of poverty in a community college district to determine where California had the greatest number of underserved students that could benefit from furthering their education.

It concluded that, of an estimated 40,000 classroom seats the new funding would support, nearly 15,000 should be created in the Inland Empire, with about 10,500 in the Central Valley and more than 9,000 in Los Angeles. The report also suggested about 2,300 new seats in greater Sacramento.

"There are definitely areas in the state where enrolling the needy population is not easy," California Competes executive director Robert Shireman said on a conference call.

Community colleges must figure out what additional programs and courses would attract and most benefit those students, he added. "Those decisions determine whether a needy student is really served and whether they are served well."

The California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office condemned the report's conclusions, saying it would deny community college access in other parts of the state.

"California community colleges were forced to turn away 500,000 students from every corner of the state during the economic downturn," spokesman Paul Feist said in a statement. "To continue rationing education in some parts of the state but not others would not be equitable and would harm California's ability to increase the number of college educated workers that our economy is demanding."

PHOTO: Eduardo Ramos, center, has his photo id picture taken on the first day of school at Los Rios Community College District expansion in Elk Grove on August 26, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua



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