City College students protest budget cuts
April 22, 2008 2:39 PM
SACRAMENTO—The sign for City College of San Francisco’s cafeteria read “closed” Monday.
Frustrated over the possible cancellation of elective and upper division culinary arts classes, Christopher Stellman and his students decided to take the day off from serving their usual 600 to 800 meals at City College’s cafeteria to dish out their discontent with the governor’s proposed $1 billion cut to the state’s three college systems.
“We told people at school that we are going to close the cafeteria today so we can keep it open tomorrow,” Stellman, a management instructor at CCSF, said Monday in Sacramento.
An estimated 600 students from City College, who rode the nearly 90-mile trip in a reported 11-bus caravan, joined Stellman and his students at the demonstration.
“We didn’t have enough buses. We had to call the bus company,” said business major Kiiana Devin, 29, as she marched from Raley Field in West Sacramento across the Sacramento River to the Capitol.
The City College busloads joined students from California State Universities, UCs and other community colleges around the state for the March For Higher Education, a student-planned lobbying day to voice concern over the increasing cost of higher education and the cuts the three college systems are facing for the 2008-09 fiscal year.
Stellman’s students, many of whom reside within the city, said elective courses including one of their favorites, Garde Manger, which teaches advanced culinary skills, are likely to be cut. But it is these advanced elective courses, they said, that give them an edge on other applicants when it comes to finding work.
“We can’t prove we know all the stuff an employer knows,” said Dalton Law, a culinary arts major, referring to what would happen if elective courses are cut. Law came to the United States five years ago from Hong Kong.
City College district officials said the summer schedule had to be cut nearly in half, and further cuts to the fall 2008 schedule will be made, but an emphasis was to “keep core classes that students really need,” said City College Associate Vice Chancellor Joanne Low, who attended the event on Monday.
“We are trying to meet student demands still,” she said. “We can’t afford the drastic cuts that are coming from Sacramento.”
Along with reduction in the number of courses, administrators also fear an increase in fees. Like Low, City College Chancellor Don Griffin recalled in 2004 when student fees went up to $26 a unit—the highest in the 109 college system’s history.
“We lost hundreds of thousands of students from community colleges,” Griffin said. In 2006, the fees were lowered to $20 a unit, but Griffin and other City College faculty are fearful that the budget cuts might force the college to raise it back to $26 a unit even though the proposed budget does not currently call for an increase in community college fees.
Cory Chen, another culinary arts student and a 2006 graduate of UC Davis, came back to City College to pursue his dream of becoming a chef, but said potential fee increases would make it difficult.
“[I was] following my passion,” Chen said. “For an affordable price—at first.”
The budget cuts also means reductions to student services would be made, according to a report released by Blue Sky Consulting Group and prepared for the Campaign for College Opportunity on April 16. The report delved into the impact that cuts to higher education in the recent past, present and the near future will have on the opportunities for the state’s students.
Though the community college enrollment is expected to grow 3 percent in 2008-09, the current budget proposal plans to fund only 1 percent of the increase, which is “likely to result in a potentially significant loss in class offering, increased class sizes and a reduction in service to students,” according to the report.
The proposed budget also calls for an $80 million reduction to the system’s categorical programs, such as Extended Opportunity Programs and Service and disabled student services. These reductions, according to the Community College Chancellor’s Office, projects that the 3.7 percent reduction in the matriculation program will cause “100,000 fewer students being assessed.”
Furthermore, the reduction in the matriculation program, which is the center for orientation, assessment, placement and counseling services, will mean 46,000 fewer students will meet with campus counselors and 43,000 students who are in academic trouble will not get the help they need from counselors to maintain their enrollment.
Devin, the City College sophomore, has been taking classes at various community colleges since she graduated high school in 1997. She said this semester is the first where she hasn’t worked outside of class and her debt from taking out student loans has accrued to $20,000.
“I’m in so much debt and I don’t even have my first degree yet,” the Southern California native said. “[I’ve been] inching my way instead of making big strides.”
Members from City College’s Chinatown/North Beach campus, where many English as a second language courses are taken, also participated in the march.
Ken Lee, an ESL teacher, said the 20,000 students—many of whom are immigrants—will be the students most likely to be affected by the cuts.
“These are the people most at risk,” Lee said.
Griffin added, “We are the last chance for many of these families and students.”
One of Lee’s students, Po Wong, has been taking classes at City College’s Chinatown campus for three years and now volunteers as an assistant who works with seniors and newcomers in the ESL department.
CSU Board of Trustees member Melinda Guzman, a one-time member of the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges and a parent of an SF State student, said the three-college higher education system is flawed. When fees go up and cuts are made, she said, students have to decide where to spend money and often drop classes or drop out of school completely.
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