Rural Community Colleges Face Distinct Challenges

Ann McClure's picture

On a recent evening at the Mendocino College Center for the Visual & Performing Arts, a cast of 35 belted out boisterous voice exercises before running through a dress rehearsal of "Inherit the Wind."

About half are community members taking the production course for personal enrichment — not pursuing degrees or planning to transfer to four-year theater programs. Some are veteran actors, who elevate the learning environment.

Met with a rave review in Ukiah's daily newspaper, the production speaks volumes about how central this school is to the region's cultural life and community spirit.

Yet changes to the core mission of California's community colleges threaten that role. State efforts to ease overcrowding and help colleges adapt to budget cuts are backfiring in rural districts already burdened by vast territories, withered economies, high poverty rates and dwindling populations.

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