Brian King, 49, became chancellor of the Los Rios Community College District in February. Before taking over the reigns of the region’s multi-community college system from mentor and friend Brice Harris, King served as president and superintendent of Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz. He brings more than 20 years of community college teaching and administrative experience to his new position.
When I first met Brice (Harris) in 2004, I had no idea my career path would lead me to Sacramento. But in knowing Brice, I learned firsthand how outstanding the Los Rios district was. The perception statewide, which I believed it deserved, is that it’s the best multi-community college district in the state. When you’re the best in California, you’re the best in the nation.”
“The good news for a new chancellor in February 2013 was the passage of Prop. 30. For the first time in several years, we’re not in a situation where we have to cut the budget and trim staff, courses and, ultimately, student enrollment. It’s wonderful to have time to build relationships with all our employee groups without the specter of having to slash budgets. I am extremely grateful to the voters of California for supporting Prop. 30.”
“We’re still a long way from where we need to be in terms of overall funding. But when you’re in a hole, the first step toward getting out of it is to stop digging deeper. The state seems to have done that. The budget will slowly grow this year. It will take awhile to rebuild the infrastructure. Unfortunately, we have cut many classes in response to budget cuts. So now we’re trying to get the word out to students that we do have more rooms and classes available at our campuses.”
“As the budget picture improves for all higher education in the state, timely transfers between eligible Los Rios students and California State University and the University of California should also improve. While we are all frustrated by the stories that students can’t get classes so it’s taking so much more time to get through the community college system, there is actually much more to it than that. It begins with our partnership with the K-12 systems. We need to work harder at making sure students are ready to succeed when they enroll. If they’re not ready, they will struggle and likely have to take development courses before they get into college–transfer courses.”
“The idea that a student can enroll in a community college course just because they have more money is a major concern. This idea, as proposed in Assembly Bill 955 (Williams, D-Santa Barbara) is still being considered at the Capitol. If approved, the bill calls for a pilot program to be rolled out whereby winter and summer intersession classes will be available at a much higher course fee. The idea is at odds with the community college philosophy of open access for everyone. Providing access based on who can afford it is troublesome. It sets a very bad precedent.”
“Differential funding from the state also remains a big concern for community colleges. Funding from the state is the same for all courses, but the costs are not. So it is a struggle for some of the higher cost programs to make sure they are adequately funded. That makes partnerships with regional business and health care providers critically important to our colleges.”
“We are uniquely positioned to help with the region’s Next Economy plan. At Los Rios, we look at workforce needs when determining the priority and size of these more expensive courses. We carefully monitor the labor data to make sure we are providing education for the jobs that are needed. When it comes to regional economic development and meeting future workforce needs, the role education plays cannot be over emphasized. Really, education is the No. 1 priority throughout the region on this front.”
“The perception is we should be offering online courses. The reality is we are. As much as 20 percent of our course offerings. The exciting part is the technology keeps on improving. The content is getting better all the time. However, I don’t see a future where classroom instruction will not remain very important. The best opportunity for this technology is to have access to the best content in the world and then have teachers using class time to discuss and have collaborative discussions with students on this content.”
“Another one of the myths is that you can provide online education cheaply. You can’t. Upgrading and maintaining the technology as well as developing the kind of content that online courses use is very expensive. There is not a cost-savings when compared to in-person instruction.”
“In California, a vast majority of students involved in higher education attend a community college. In recent years, the state’s community-college student population has exceeded 2.5 million. So the role of the community college system within the state’s Master Plan (for Higher Education) has never been more important. It is still our primary mission to offer open-access programs that meet the needs of all our students. The major challenge to moving forward with the master plan is finding the funding. While the need for higher education has increased, the level of commitment to state higher education funding has decreased.”
“Something like 80 percent of the jobs in the next 10 years will require more education than a high school diploma but less than a 4-year degree. That’s the pathway to the middle class, and that’s at the heart of what Los Rios community colleges do. We meet those needs.”
For more than 40 years, Brice Harris has sat front row in the nation’s community college system. First as a part-time faculty member at a small campus in Kansas City, later as president of Fresno City College and since 1996 as chancellor of Los Rios Community College District. He has spent his career working within multi-college systems. This month, he retires.
Thomas Hanns was homeless when he first enrolled in classes at Sacramento City College, one of four main campuses that make up the Los Rios Community College District.