1. Reduce the Cost of College Education.

Given the high cost of housing and living in South Orange County, today’s graduates face greater challenges in securing financial security, which in turn delays new household formations and negatively impacts economic activity. From an education perspective, the best way to address this is by providing high quality low cost means of education with the intent of minimizing the burden of education debt. This can be achieved in two ways.

    • Santa Ana College recently announced that all students who graduate from the Santa Ana Unified School District are eligible to a full tuition waiver for their first year of college education. There is no reason why we cannot replicate this for all Saddleback and Irvine Valley College students. This is not an unreasonable objective given that California community colleges were known for being tuition free up until 1983.
    • Another way to reduce debt is to increase articulation with our local K-12 school districts. Students can take college level classes in the high school setting, giving them a leg up in terms of the total number of credits they must earn while attending college. The Orange County Register has in the past reported on students who have graduated from high school with a diploma and an Associate’s Degree from the local community college at the same time. Those particular students are now two years closer to entering the work force.
    • In the same spirit of increasing articulation with K-12 school districts, tying the course work at the community colleges to programs with UC and CSU will lead to direct admission to our four year educational institutions. A great example of this was recently announced by Saddleback College with the law pathway providing community college students a direct pass to major universities and their law schools.

2. Provide marketable career skills for high wage jobs.

With the increased importance of science in technology, we need to provide those students not headed to a traditional four year college program the ability to be self-sufficient in high paying jobs. Areas of particular emphasis are in health care and STEM. This can be achieved by the following:

    • It is essential for continued economic activity, especially as the population in South Orange County ages, to develop a meaningful talent pool that can meets the region’s current and projected workforce needs. As a corporate executive, every day I see the challenges of finding qualified candidates with the requisite engineering and technology skills needed to for most positions. Saddleback College has taken a giant step in this direction by creating the annual South Orange County Economic Report. Another key move in that direction is the establishment of the Advanced Technology and Education Park (“ATEP”).
    • Admittedly this is a repeat, but articulation does not only benefit those students destined to four year colleges. A big challenge our community colleges face is the large pool of students who require remedial education. If we can create meaningful pathways for students starting in high school, these students will be greater incentivized to take all of their needed coursework in high school. A good example would be to partner the Auto Shop program at San Clemente High School, administered by the South Coast ROP and to potentially create a pathway for students to earn a certificate in Auto Mechanics at the time of high school graduation or shortly thereafter. This also gets our students into the workforce that much quicker and the skills will be less likely to become stale or dated.