As Jerry Brown begins his second governorship of California, he has proposed a complete overhaul of the state budget. The overhaul is sure to upset many people, including community college students.In addition to cuts across the board, there is a proposed $10 per unit fee increase for California’s community colleges. Fees currently stand at $26 per unit after a $6 increase for the fall 2009 semester. With the proposed increase, the average class would cost $108, and the average full-time student would pay $432 for all 12 units.
But enough math. Is this cause for alarm? Students across California are already upset over supposed lack of government interest and investment in higher education. The budget situation is indeed unfortunate, but despite the increases in the last two years, California’s community college students are much better off than their out-of-state counterparts. Community colleges in states bordering our own have fees ranging from $42 in Nevada to $76 in Oregon. Unit fees here in California no longer seem as bad, do they?
If we were to zoom out further, to an even bigger picture, community colleges are still much more affordable than four-year universities. A year of classes at a California community college would run the average student $864, not including the price of textbooks (which, let’s face it, is a completely different issue). A year of classes at a state university is nearly five times as much, which again doesn’t include the price of books and housing for out-of-towners.
As community college students, we need to understand that there is no easy way to repair the state’s overburdened budget. There’s no button the governor can press to make everything better. We must find more effective ways to tell lawmakers that education matters. We should channel our determination, energy, and in some cases, rage into something positive. Anybody can pick up a poster board and some markers and create a clever sign that they’ll use to vent, but how constructive is that?
Call or write your local legislator and student government representative. Flood their e-mail boxes and answering machines with possible solutions instead of your frustrations. Excel in your classes and show legislators that community colleges work and actually matter. After all, it’s probably not the best idea to skip class to attend a protest of education cuts.
Most of all, make your time in college count.