Students march for higher public ed funding/tax extensions
The rain didn’t stop an estimated 13,000 college students and faculty from marching on the State Capitol Monday to demand legislators work out their differences and put tax extensions on the ballot, which educators have said would make next year’s cuts more bearable.
Students were bused from all over the state to the Towe Auto Museum, where the march officially began. Called the “March in March,” Monday’s protest was the fourth year in a row that the same group came out to the Capitol in such large numbers.
As it stands now, Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 assesses a $1.4 billion cut to higher education, including $500 million to University of California schools and the California State University system and $400 million to community colleges.
Over the past few years, California’s public post-secondary systems have experienced unpredictable fee increases, employee furloughs, layoffs and, for the first time, enrollment reductions prevented access to qualified California residents state the offices of the California State Student Association and Student Senate for California Community Colleges.
In reaction to Brown’s budget proposal, California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott said the proposed cuts hurt colleges’ ability to serve students and will harm California’s economic recovery.
“These are difficult times for California, and there’s no way to avoid the pain of budget cuts,” he said. “However, if our community colleges sustain reductions of this magnitude, we anticipate up to 350,000 students will be turned away next year.”
Scott said if just 2 percent more of California’s population earned associate degrees and 1 percent more earned bachelor’s degrees, the state’s economy would grow by $20 billion.
“Those educated workers would generate state and local taxes of $1.2 billion a year, and 174,000 new jobs would be created in California,” he said.
“The UC, CSU and California Community Colleges can get our state headed back in the right direction,” he added, “but we cannot do it with continually shrinking budgets. Remember, higher education is not a cost to California, but an investment.”
Sacramento City Community College Student Body President Justin Turner said the number of students from his campus nearly doubled from last year, and nonetheless, many classes have been eliminated from the schedule.
“This put the students in a situation which may prolong their transfer, AA degree, or certificate program at city college,” Turner said. “As the cuts increase, the classes will, too, which will also turn students away and may push some students away from getting a education.” he said.
If the proposed budget passes, with all the cuts hitting higher education, classes may further disappear and double in size.
“It’s a scary thought. To think when Gov. Brown was in office the first time, you could go to a community college nearly free … Wow, have times changed,” Turner said.
Organizers said that the protests have helped higher education funding in the past. According to Community College Student Senate President Alex Pader
, at this time last year, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget asked for a $60 per unit hit at the two-year schools. “We rebelled against them and got them down to $26,” Fuller said.
Fuller, 48, is a returning student at Coastline College. He lost his job when the economy tanked and said he now sees more and more older students.
Cutbacks to classes and student services, including counselors, has been one of the biggest obstacles this year.
“The counselors are there to help the students, and if students are there to figure it out on their own, they take wrong classes, they take too many classes, too few classes – it just delays the process over and over,” Fuller said, adding that there are some counseling departments that have been reduced to one or two people, and they’re dealing with 60,000 students.
Shortly after the noontime rally, students filled the Capitol rotunda and chanted, “Save our schools,” for a few minutes while other students sent postcards to their legislators asking for more funding.
Monica Stark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Editorial Note: A correction has been made to this story after it was published. The incorrect information has been struck out and the correct information has been added.