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L.A. Now Live: Discuss community college fundraising, student debt

October 19, 2012 |  8:03 am

The Times higher education reporter Larry Gordon will join L.A. Now Live to discuss efforts by community colleges to offset budget cuts by aggressively tapping alumni and others for donations.

The chat is scheduled for 9 a.m. today.

Gordon reported that at Pasadena City College, the school is seeking donations from alumni and others to restore some of the 570 classes it planned to cut this academic year. The campaign, launched in April, has received about $89,400 in donations, and the school is also devoting $106,000 from savings resulting from some cost cuts, officials said.

The result is that 35 classes are being revived in such high-demand fields as biology, political science and psychology.

Beyond the effect on that 30,000-student campus, the effort highlights how community colleges around the state and nation are increasingly courting donors and reconnecting with their alumni — tasks often neglected when state funds were more plentiful.

The Times has been reporting on the state of California's two-year colleges, which are buckling under the stress of funding cuts, increased demand and a weak record of student success.

One bright spot, however, is that students in California graduate with one of the lowest average loads of education debt in the nation, according to a new study.

Gordon reported that the Cal Grant financial aid program and the relatively low tuition at the California State University system helped rank California as third from the bottom in the country for the amount of debt owed by 2011 graduates from schools here, said the report by the Oakland-based Institute for College Access and Success.

Just 51% of graduates from California's public and private nonprofit colleges took on student debt, compared with 66% nationwide, and those loan totals averaged $18,879, which was about $7,700 below the national average.

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