In a victory for community college students, the Kern Community College District Trustees have postponed a vote on whether to do away with access to federal loans at Bakersfield College in California. For those who can’t otherwise afford to attend or finish school, federal student loans are the safest way to borrow.
Trustees had planned to vote on the issue yesterday, but after hearing from several concerned students, they decided to table the vote until late fall and convene a workgroup to learn more about student loans. In making their decision, the trustees restated their commitment to promoting student success.
The Student Senate for California Community Colleges (SSCCC) recently urged all California community colleges to offer federal loans. The SSCCC, along with the California Community College Association of Student Trustees (CCCAST) and TICAS, also shared their concerns with the Kern District trustees in advance of yesterday’s meeting. Key among these concerns is that without access to federal loans, students who need to borrow must turn to riskier private loans, work excessive hours, drop courses or drop out altogether.
Today’s outcome is a great example of what can happen when students and citizens speak up about issues that concern them. We applaud the Kern trustees for seeking to better understand the issue and make the best decision for students.
While today’s development is good news for Bakersfield College students, the U.S. Department of Education can and should do more to support federal loan access at community colleges. Colleges that pull out of the loan program often do so because they fear sanctions related to default rates. In fact, colleges like Bakersfield College – where relatively few students borrow – are protected from these sanctions because of their low borrowing rate.
To support colleges making decisions based on fact rather than fear, it is critical that the Department:
- urge the Bakersfield College trustees not to deny their students access to federal loans;
- remind Bakersfield and other colleges with low borrowing rates about available appeals and clarify that they are at low risk of sanctions – or, as in Bakersfield’s case, no risk at all; and
- highlight what colleges and servicers can do to prevent defaults and to improve their loan counseling and student success.