Op-Ed: Expanding higher education benefits Long Beach residents and LBCC

By Long Beach Councilmember Rex Richardson and Long Beach City College Trustee Uduak-Joe Ntuk

This Tuesday, November 13th, both the Long Beach City Council and Community College Board of Trustees will take part in dialogues, focused on expanding higher education into Uptown Long Beach.

This is a smart and timely proposal, where both the Uptown community and LBCC stand to greatly benefit, from both fiscal sustainability and workforce readiness standpoints.

Here’s why.

Long Beach City College has recently been experiencing declining enrollment which has a direct negative impact on the college’s budget. In a 2017 Long Beach Labor Market Report, commissioned by Long Beach City College, 90805 was identified as the area with the most potential to increase enrollment and strengthen revenue.

In short, North Long Beach has the most adults in need of higher education, which could fill the college’s enrollment gap. Moreover, this population would greatly benefit from the college course and workforce development programs.

The Public Policy Institute of California projects that by 2025, California is likely to face a shortage of workers with some postsecondary education but less than a bachelor’s degree. In fact, the future gap among “some college” educated workers may be as high as 1.5 million—even larger than the projected one-million-worker shortage of college graduates.

Home to one-fifth of the City’s population, the 90805 area is Long Beach’s “youngest” zip code, with half of its residents being less than 30 years of age. Historically, youthful populations yield great economic benefits, such as an active workforce and large tax base.

However, only 13 percent of Uptown’s young adult population have a bachelor’s degree, making 90805 the zip code with the most adults (older than 25 years) with “some college or less” as their highest level of education, which risks future economic exclusion from the workforce.

Breaking down barriers

Upon exploring different approaches to addressing these challenges in North Long Beach, we agree that one’s physical access to education should not be another barrier.

On average, the travel time for a bus ride from Jordan High School to a Long Beach City College campus takes almost 2 hours, which reaffirms the interference distance can become for one’s performance.

The proximity of a higher education institution directly impacts its surrounding community by addressing the accessibility concerns of the nearest residents. Furthermore, as the primary higher education institution for workforce development, community colleges can effectively address the diverse educational and career needs of its students.

The opportunity

Atlantic Ave in North Long Beach is the midst of a transformation, now becoming a “Main Street” municipal and educational corridor that needs higher education as a strategic partner. With new development and public infrastructure investments on hand, such as the Houghton Park Community Center, the North Long Beach Health Department Facility improvements, the amenities available at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library, and the on-going $140 million modernization of Jordan High School campus, there are many opportunities to partner on establishing an LBCC anchor in Uptown.

The time is right for our public institutions to come together and make a joint evaluation of expanding higher education in North Long Beach. Establishing a community college center in our part of town would provide the much-needed job skills development and workforce readiness, while simultaneously making LBCC stronger. If we are to ensure that North Long Beach residents will be qualified candidates for the future labor force needs, we must provide them access to the necessary college training and career resources.

Join us on Tuesday, Nov. 13th, at both the Long Beach City Council and Community College Board of Trustees meetings, as we discuss this great opportunity.

Both meetings begin at 5pm. City Council convenes in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 333 W. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90802. The Long Beach Community College Board of Trustees will meet in Board Room T, Room 1100, at the LBCC Liberal Arts Campus, 4901 E. Carson St., Long Beach, CA 90808.

Rex Richardson is a member of the Long Beach City Council. Uduak-Joe Ntuk is a Long Beach City College Trustee.


Long Beach Press-Telegram

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