Job cuts number in the tens of thousands each week. Huge businesses file for bankruptcy and close dozens of stores and factories. The news about the economy was dismal before Christmas and as fourth quarter earnings have been released over the past few days, it has become clear the financial picture will get worse before it gets better. Many industrial closings affect the rural areas of Virginia, which happen to be the same area that many of the community colleges serve. When factories close, people need to be retrained for other jobs so they can support their families. The community college is usually where these displaced workers turn to get new skills. The sudden influx of new, older students puts pressure on the resources within the college to provide classes and support for this particular demographic group.
Unfortunately, a state of recession also means deep and painful budget cuts from state government funding which in turn restricts the ability of the community colleges to provide services to all the students needing these critical classes and support. Alas, raising taxes to help fund the state government is not a viable solution when people are out of work, facing foreclosure on their homes and just trying to keep their families fed. As this cycle spins on, the pressure rises on the state to create jobs, save funding to colleges and keep taxes low.
Where can we find an opening to escape this frightening not so merry-go-round? Is federal government intervention the answer? Can Obama be the FDR of the twenty-first century and can he propose a “New Deal” plan to help retrain this displaced generation of workers to fill the jobs of the future while ensuring that their children and grandchildren will not have to carry the debt for this bail-out? How can we plan our futures so this scenario is not repeated in sixty or seventy years?
The state legislature will be dealing with the immediate budget woes in the upcoming weeks and hopefully education funding will be minimally affected, at least at the community college level. With twenty million to lose in 2009 and nearly forty million in 2010, there is a lot of funding potentially on the chopping block.
The small increase in financial aid is not going to offset cuts like these. Let’s get these workers retrained so that if the new administration is successful in creating the new jobs of the future, the workforce will be ready to take their places.