Imagine watching your once peaceful neighborhood become noisy and overcrowded. You’ve been living in the Santa Barbara area for decades, and you find it frustrating that these people have disrupted your community’s way of life.
You grow resentful of these strangers, and need to find some group, some person to blame for this. You know that City College serves more students from outside the area than most other two-year colleges do. So, you decide, the problem must be that there are too many out-of-the-area students. After all, isn’t a community college supposed to primarily serve the community?
This simplistic, xenophobic way of looking at the overcrowding issue in Santa Barbara has frequently dogged City College elections in past years, most recently rearing its ugly head in the Board of Trustees election forum. A resident who had lived in the area for over 30 years expressed concern during the forum that local residents were not getting the resources they need at City College because too many out-of-the-area students were sucking City College’s resources dry.
Marsha Croninger, who was re-elected to the board this month, replied that out-of-the-area students were “not a priority for the college.” She added that about 55 percent of City College’s students were from outside the area, receiving gasps from the audience.
The fear that locals are not obtaining the resources they need here is misguided. City College is one of the best two-year schools in the nation, and when that reputation leads to substantial enrollment from out-of-the-area students, the Santa Barbara community should be looking for ways to accommodate them, not finding ways to prevent them from coming.
Basic economics tells us that when demand of a commodity outstrips its supply, two of the most effective ways to achieve market balance is to either decrease demand for it or increase the supply. Since there is no tangible evidence that local students as a group are not receiving the resources they need any more than than out-of-the-area students, that’s not the commodity at issue.
City College has a program called the SBCC Promise that provides all local high school graduates, including home-schooled students, with a free education for their first two years of enrollment that covers everything except food and other living expenses. Promise students even have priority registration for their first semester, giving them a major advantage over most other students in securing the classes they need.
International student attendance has already dropped by 200 students since 2016, and when out-of-state and international students pay over seven times as much tuition as in-state students, increasing their enrollment fees to discourage future attendance would be cruel.
The commodity at issue is housing, and how the community as a whole is not providing enough housing to meet the needs of its members, whether they be long-time residents, students who just moved in last year, or college faculty who found a job opening at the college. This issue should be tackled by the community as a whole, and should not be blamed on any one group. The housing system itself is flawed, and we need to focus our attention on changing the system rather than pointing fingers at students.
All but one of The Channels’ editors comes from outside the area, and both our newspaper and the college at large would not be as great as they are without the invaluable perspectives and experiences these out-of the area students provide.