Waiting

In California, we wait for the March axe to fall. Teachers and budgets are not always the best of friends. By law, all termination notices must be out by March 15th. RIFs.

I teach adults, and who knows if my program will continue into next year. Adult schools’ funding is at the mercy of the K-12 district administrators. Unfortunately. Community colleges, colleges and universities are somehow considered more important within the educational system than adult schools. Even the name “adult school” conjures up images of places for stupid people to go, people who have failed. In truth, this is very far from reality.

Programs at adult schools provide training at many levels. Not everyone wants to go to college and take general education courses while training for a career or trade. Not everyone wants the pleasure of learning about art history or botany, but would rather get down to business and do what they want to learn. Where I work, we offer medical programs, some which are connected with colleges as their accrediting agencies mandate an A.S. degree as requisite to the practice. We also have welding, machine shop, parent education, and on and on. And ESL, and GED. Many of our students use our programs to begin a career, to change self-perceptions of skills and ability to succeed in school. Adult schools are a vital part of the community they serve, but overlooked at local and state levels as far as importance. Why? Because we are not labeled “college”!

Colleges of all flavors are preferred over the adult school for funding, and adult schools are closing. We may too. Because the funding for adult schools has changed at the state level, money is very tight. Fees need to be raised to break even. Administrators of adult schools need to change their approaches to funding, and one way is to get federal financial aid as part of their program, whether in house, or through third-party administrators. Yes, it will cost money, but that needs to be explored. Long-term thinking, not short-term immediacy. Getting this is critical. Yet, the ostriches in administration keep their heads in the sand when it comes to the business of financing education.

The result will be that private schools, with fees triple or quadruple those of adult education, will get students because they know that without financial aid they cannot survive. And people desperate for training will take on debt disproportionate to the amount they will make when training is completed. Some private “career colleges” are not even recognized by licensing boards! But the fact is, these private schools have better business savvy than those who administer adult education.

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