SPECIAL SERIES : SF State Budget Woes
Program Helping Kids Get to College to be Cut in Half
Step to College Taking Double Hit from Budget
April 29, 2004 3:53 PM
The Step to College Program, which is losing its supporting Faculty/Student Mentorship Program in June, will have to be cut in half to cope with the university's budget fall, according to the programs' coordinator Michael Rodriguez.
Step to College is part of SF Stateís College of Education and currently serves approximately 250 students per year in seven Bay Area high schools. The 17-year-old program that has brought over 2,000 students from public high school to SF State is designed to motivate and guide public school students, especially minorities, through their transition from high school to their first year at the university.
After the programís estimated $100,000 yearly budget is reduced to about $50,000, it will only be able to serve two schools and probably half of the number of students they currently serve, since their number of lecturers would be reduced from five to only two, said Rodriguez.
"Cut backs have been affecting us for the last couple of years, but this is the worst Iíve ever seen it," he said, adding that four years ago the Step to College Program assisted about 500 high school seniors per year.
The proposed cut to the Step to College Program is part of SF Stateís budget reduction plan released by the universities Provost John Gemello on April 19 and will probably not take place until the 2005-2006 academic year, according to Rodriguez.
But the program will begin to suffer budget cut effects as early as June, when the Faculty/Student Mentorship Program (FSMP) is eliminated, said Rodriguez, who is also the coordinator for FSMP. Even though FSMP, which offers tutoring services to students during their freshman year, is a separate program, it works as a continuation of Step to College once the students are accepted into the university, he said.
"We try to get students involved with the Faculty/Student Mentorship Program not only to give them free tutoring during their freshmen year, but also because it allows us to keep contact and make sure things are going well with them," said Rodriguez.
FSMP, which has been around since 1989, is a program funded by the California Lottery, according to Rodriguez. But as of June the program will have to be discontinued. Its funds are probably needed in another area, he said.
Both programs have helped a lot of people, said Rodriguez, who was a Step to College student in 1986 and holds a master's degree in international relations. The college retention rate of students who have participated in the Step to College Program is approximately 90 percent, according to the universities web site.
"There are not many programs that do what we do and on one hand I'm thankful to the president of the university who has supported us for so many years," said Rodriguez. "But on the other, with the way things are going, the only way keep these programs is to seek outside funding because it's possible that they can just eliminate the Step to College Program," he said.
But Dr. Jacob Perea, Step to College Program founder and Dean of the College of Education, said that he will not allow this to happen. "I won't let it happen. The president of the university won't let it happen and I don't believe the provost will let it happen. I have already told them that I won't let it go. I can search for private funding. I can make it smaller. But it is just too important to let it go."
Access to university from public schools has become even more limited than it used to be when the program was founded, said Dr. Perea. "We need this program more than ever."
ďWe started the program with one class. So even with the number of students we are currently helping we are still doing a good job,Ē said Dr. Perea.
The Step to College program was designed to promote higher education among underrepresented minority students.
The program offers students education orientation and critical thinking classes. The classes are taught by SF State professors who travel to Bay Area high schools that participate in the program. Students who are in the program receive up to six university credits as well as assistance in completing CSU admission and financial aid applications. They also receive a SF State identification card that allows them to take advantage of university services while still in high school.
Not all of the students who participate in the Step to College Program end up attending SF State. Some of them may decide to go to another university such as UC Berkeley or even to attend a community college. But at least half of those enrolled in the program choose to come to SF State, said Rodriguez.
"I'm not going to say that we have been 100 percent successful with the program, but we have been very successful, especially with those groups of students that everybody thought they could not do it," said Dr. Perea.
Dr. Perea remembers a specific case of a student from Mission High School who was going to be sent to jail by the school principal when he was offered a deal. The principal said that if the student decided to join the Step to College Program and finish high school he was going to be given a second chance. That student is now a high school teacher, said Dr. Perea.
"Step to College really encourages those people who didn't think they could go to college, who didn't think they could make it," said Angelica Sabale, a former Step to College student who now works as an intern for FSMP.
ďIím extremely thankful, beyond words can express, for Dr. Perea founding this program. A lot of people donít see it that way, but it changes peopleís lives and I feel like it has changed mine, ď said Cecia Gutierrez, who was in the Step to College Program in 1993 while she attended high school. She now works as an intern for the program.
Gutierrez, as well as, many other SF State students wish these cuts and all the others the university is having to face did not have to happen. But many students say they are aware that with a budget fall of $22 million these are just the beginning of a series of cuts this university will face over the next years.
ďItís important for students to understand that we are not making these decisions," said Dr. Perea. "They are coming to us. And one of the reasons for that is because politicians are not so interested in what they say they are when they want to be elected. So my message to the students is donít let politicians do that. Vote, come together and put that power as a group. We are the largest system in the United States. We are all voters and we all have voices."
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