City College Played Big Role in Capital Budget Protest

Mayra Martinez

Sixty busloads of students, teachers and staff from City College of San Francisco - the nation's largest community college - joined thousands of other demonstrators in Sacramento earlier this month to protest tuition hikes and budget cuts.

About 3,000 protesters from college, located in the city's Ingleside District, were among the 13,000 who gathered for the “March in March,” raising a passionate cry of support for California’s colleges as Gov. Schwarzenegger prepared a revised budget for release in May.

Together the protesters urged legislators to spare the state’s colleges while trying to close a $20 billion deficit. For the over 100,000 CCSF students, a proposed tuition increase from $26 to $40 a unit this year would translate to a doubling of tuition in just two years.

“When tuition goes up, the population that can ill afford to miss out on an education are the ones who get the door slammed in their face,” said Ryan Vanderpol, a CCSF student and president of the Associated Students on the Ocean campus.

For many of the 19,906 City College students under 25, the $120 price of a typical three-unit course - on top of textbooks - would put the cost an education at CCSF beyond their reach, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s office.

“It just means much more money that my parents don’t have, so it would be extremely difficult, because I am not working right now,” said CCSF student Lani Tuapola. “That just makes people not want to go to school, because it’s just too much.”

The budget proposed by the governor in January gave a 2.2 percent increase to community colleges, but that mirrored a rise in the number of students from last year.

The budget would force drastic cuts to programs such as CalWorks, home care for seniors and services for the disabled. A total of 4,725 students were in the service programs during the 2008-2009 year, according to the the chancellor's office.

Dead Ends
CCSF Laura Close, a single parent, the proposed cuts would likely end her college career. “I would probably not be going to school and working just some dead end job to make money that doesn’t stimulate my mind or my spirit, which is exactly what I am trying to avoid," she said.

Other students, like Aviance Amedee, worried about losing financial aid. “I’m already working two jobs. If I didn’t have this fee waiver I would be S.O.L with a capital S,” said Amedee. “What’s the point of a community college if at $40 a unit you might as well go to [S.F.] State?”

Students will also have to wait to find out the number of classes that will be available and the number of students the school will be able to serve. CCSF plans to shut down for the summer. For the 2010 Fall and Spring semesters, 6.3 percent of course sections were cut.

“Less classes means more time in school and less time to get a job and support yourself and your family," said Elizabeth Ramos, who started the Ya Basta club at City College with Edith Romo. Though their Puente Project, they reach out to disadvantaged kids by visiting high schools, hoping to encourage them to attend college.

“The whole reason a lot of them even consider City College is because it is so accessible, " said Romo. "If that accessibility is taken away from them, it takes away their motivation and makes it easier to say ‘Just forget it.'"

Job Training
Currently the largest system of higher education in the country with 2.9 million students - CCSF alone has over 100,000 students - California's community college system is also the state’s leading provider of workforce training.

An April study by the Public Policy Institute of California projected the state would face a shortage of nearly 1 million college-educated workers by 2025.

It warned that funding cuts would worsen the skills gap. Tuition increases may also make out-of-state students think twice about moving to California to attend school.

“What the state is missing is that ... about 40 percent of the people come to California to go to school and end up staying,” said student Philip Conklin.

“Because they’ve graduated, they are in a higher tax bracket and bring in more revenue. They [legislators] have cut all they can and there is only one thing left to do - raise taxes.”

The dire state of the current CCSF budget will be clear to anyone who drives through the Ingleside this summer, when CCSF will shut down for the first time since the early 1980s.

“It's very tough for us to tell a student that they can’t come here and do what it is they need to get done," said Leslie Smith, associate vice-chancellor at CCSF. "It’s against our culture and all of the people who work here are bending over backwards to help students.”