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Educational Philanthrocapitalists: Threats to Faculty, Students, and Democracy



Over the past 20 years, philanthrocapitalist foundations have been funding an increasing number of policies designed to shrink the California Community Colleges. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between these groups and the California Community Colleges. Most of these groups have little or no direct experience within the community colleges; they do not understand who our students are. As a result of this disconnect, they continue to design policy that makes it more difficult for our students to enroll and succeed. Deceptively, these groups claim that their policies are more equitable when in practice, they have been responsible for the system’s loss of one million plus students over the course of a decade. This presentation begs the question: How can we resist the movement to disrupt and defund public education?
Educational Philanthrocapitalists:
Threats to
Faculty, Students, and Democracy
Debbie Klein, Ph.D.
Professor of Anthropology, Gavilan College
Past President, FACCC
Transforming Democracy: Empowering Voices of Students & Faculty
March 19, 2023
Sacramento, CA
Why Now? Core Beliefs & Analyses
We’re in a battle with the academic industrial complex* for the soul of
public education.
Education is a human right.
Learning is a path to liberation. Education is freedom.
The corporate agenda of privatization, anti-labor, austerity &
defunding the public good is shutting out students.
Defunding the largest & most diverse system of higher education in
the nation is systemic racism & classism.
Building a campaign could reclaim & reinvent life-affirming education
& combat austerity measures.
* Profit-driven relationship between public institutions, private companies & philanthrocapitalist organizations. The AIC transforms
students into customers, administrators into CEOs, campuses into markets & colleges into degree factories. 2
* Nancy Thomas, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, 2022
Threat to Democracy:
Erosion of the California Community Colleges
The community college
mission is to
democratize opportunity
& practice the work of
Shrinking of the California Community Colleges
* Data retrieved from California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Datamart and (3/6/23)
35% decrease in students (~ 997,565)
since 2008
6.4% increase in annual CA population since
“Reform” Takeover
The education “reform” movement has
been defunding & shrinking the
California Community Colleges for
The Chancellor’s Office, BOG & CA
legislators are heavily influenced by the
“reform” agenda.
Example | New CCC Chancellor Sonya
Christian is currently vice chair of the
Campaign for College Opportunity’s
board, having served on their board since
2017. 5
Lumina & Gates Foundations
Lumina Foundation for Education
Founded in 2001
Largest foundation focused on US higher education
Entirely funded by Student Loan Marketing
Corporation, Sallie Mae
Funded Student Success Task Force (2012) & ACCJC
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Largest private foundation in the world
Chief architect of Common Core, K-12 standardized
testing & online modalities creating demand for
microsoft products
“Gates Effect”: echo chamber of like-minded
ideas among government & foundation worlds
“Pay less for college”
“All students deserve
equitable access to education”
Austerity: Dominant “Reformer” Ideology
Shrinking CCC mission from lifelong learning, basic skills, strong
workforce & transfer to narrow form of “get in, get out” transfer,
catering to 20% of students.
Shrinking enrollment: prioritizing first time, full-time students.
Shrinking educational & course options: education is for
developing human capital/workers not growing in knowledge,
critical thinking, character & civic engagement.
Terminology: Disruption is not Reform
“Reform” is a misnomer
“Reform” groups have intentionally disrupted &
derailed public education
Corporate disruptors (Ravitch 2020)
Demonize faculty
Perpetuate a system that exploits part-time faculty
Aim to privatize public education
Aim to lower taxes
Aim to demolish education as a public good
Disrupt for sake of disrupting
State Chancellor Jack Scott testifying on
SB 1456, Student Success Act (2012)
Corporatizing higher education is socially unjust and morally
unethical…Neoliberalism plays a major role in corporatizing higher
education. Neoliberalism is a form of global capitalism based on the
deregulation of free markets and the privatization of wealth…The basic
purpose of neoliberalism is to allow private interests to own and control
every aspect of the human, social and natural world. Things like food,
water, farmland, forests, health care, prisons, militaries, political
processes, mass media, and of course, education, are targets of neoliberal
control…While most colleges are still nonprofit institutions, their primary
function is to serve the neoliberal enterprise.
-Jason Del Gandio | “Neoliberalism and the Academic-Industrial Complex”
Terminology: Neoliberalism
The national “reform” agenda pushed in all fifty states equates
“student success” with the rapid completion of transfer,
degrees, and certificates...The push for full-time attendance
squeezes out students who cannot go full-time, students who
are not necessarily headed toward the corporate workforce,
and those who need and want education for other reasons,
such as lifelong learners.
-Marcy Rein, Mickey Ellinger, Vicki Legion | Free City!
Terminology: National “Reform”
Policy Network Driving Education “Reform”
1 3 5
US Department of
Education (DOE)
Think Tanks,
Advocacy Organizations &
Professional Associations
Government Officials
(eg. Gov. Jerry Brown)
American Legislative
Exchange Council
Republican & Democratic
Parties & Corporate Media
* See appendix 2 | Free City! 11
SB 1440 (Padilla)
Transfer Pathway
Associate Degree for
SB 440(Padilla)
Student Transfer
Reform Act
Require ADTs and
Transfer Model
SB 1456
Student Success Act
Education Plans and
success metrics
AB 705 (Irwin)
Vision for Success
Big Audacious
System Goals
Guided Pathways
Budget Act
Funding Formula
Fully Online College
AB 927 (Medina)
Degree Program
AB 928 (Berman)
Student Transfer
Intersegmental HE
Common GE
pathway, & Auto
placement in ADTs
AB 1111 (Berman)
Common Course
Over a Decade of Policy “Reformfrom Sacramento
Budget Act
Data System
AB 1705 (Irwin)
Equitable Placement
Place and enroll the
majority of students
directly into transfer
level English and
“Reform”-Influenced Philanthropist Organizations
1971 2001-2 2005 2006 2009 2010
Philanthrocapitalist Foundations: Decoding Their Missions
Prepare people for
citizenship &
success in a global
All lives have equal
value, impatient
optimists working
to reduce inequity
A California where
all low-income
workers have the
power to advance
Lower student loan
default rates,
sponsor college
access & success
Philanthrocapitalist Foundations: Decoding Their Missions
Benefits, supports &
enhances the missions
of the California
Community Colleges
More graduates
for a thriving
opportunities in
America’s cities
Turn schools into
places that empower
& equip every student
for a lifetime of
learning, expand
access to OER
Foundation for California Community Colleges
Amy Supinger,
“higher education
policy wonk” (Twitter)
Student success consultant for the
CA state policy consultant for
Lumina & ED of Student Success
Task Force
Co-author & project manager of
Vision for Success
California Community Colleges Vision for Success
“Reformer” Dominance
9 philanthropist organization
boards: 98 members
CCC practitioners: 15%
Non-CCC practitioners: 85%
85% of decision makers have no
direct experience in the CCCs
“Reformer” Ideology: “Get in, Get Out” to Cut Costs
Cloaked in the Language of Success & Equity
“Reformer” Hegemony
“Reformer” v. practitioner
ideologies of the public good
oppose each other
“Reformers” have changed CCC
mission to a “get in, get out”
degree & certificate factory
Who gains from the shrinking of the CCCs?
Student loan industry
Push for full-time attendance drives students into debt
Education Technology
Long game is to eliminate need for faculty
Private and for-profit colleges and universities
For-profits cost up to x17 as much as CCCs
Anti-labor movement
Long game is to eliminate unions
Individuals who do not believe in investing in public education
Who loses from the shrinking of the CCCs?
The largest and most diverse student body in US higher education.
Our students become empowered to transform their lives &
participate in democracy when they are able to…
Access low-cost, high quality community college education.
Return to college to gain new skills, train for a new career, and
explore their passion.
Learn and interact with their community in an educational
Explore options as they embark on an educational path.
~1,800,000 students
~ 52,628 faculty
~ 27,728 classified professionals
~ 2,289 administrators
CCC Student & Practitioner Coalition
Stronger Together!
* Data retrieved from California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Datamart (3/5/23) 20
Next Steps:
Research, Organize, Strategize, Build a Campaign
How do we frame our story?
What counter-narrative will win against the “reformer” narrative of
What would equity look like if we decoupled it from the drive to cut
per-student costs?
What are some strategies to build back the California Community
How do we influence the state budget and legislation?
What else?
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.