Student Fees Will Increase $7 Per Unit

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Good news arrived in the form of the governor’s May revision to the California community college budget. The new draft has given the community colleges an additional $245 million, which would bring the proposed January fee of $24 per unit to $18 per unit and decreased the amount of reductions for Equal Opportunity Placement and Disabled Students Programs.

“The governor very much wants to keep community college student fees as low as possible and acknowledges that the January proposal of $24 per unit would have imposed too big a burden,” said California Community College Chancellor Tom Nussbaum.

Statewide, Equal Opportunity Placement Services and Disabled Student Placement Services will go from a 45 percent reduction in funds to a 1.2 percent reduction in funds – equal to about $36 million, respectively, in funds the programs will get back.

“These programs are essential to student success, and it is heartening to see that the levels of funding have been protected,” said Nussbaum.
Nussbaum attributes these encouraging numbers to efforts by students, faculty and staff in recent months. Protests and rallies have all had a “significant influence,” Nussbaum said.

“The fight on behalf of our students is far from over, but we have gained significant ground,” the chancellor said. “Given the bipartisan support for community colleges that we enjoy in the Legislature, if we stay unified and strong, there is every reason to believe we can improve our ultimate funding package even more.”

“The governor recognizes the work we have done in organizing against the governor’s proposal,” said Vice President of Administrative Services Larry Serot.

However, as the spring semester draws to a close, GCC will face additional budget cuts on top of an already-dwindling budget that has reduced hours for departments, cut one summer inter-session, canceled classes and caused classified staff to be laid off.

An additional $4.6 million has yet to be cut from the college’s budget. The $4.6 million in reductions include cuts to the student worker budget, relief employees and non-credit courses. As of a May 16 budget report, GCC has made $2.4 million in budget cuts targeting such areas as custodial supplies, cafeteria support, staff development and the Child Development Center. According to Serot, yet an additional $319,000 will have to be cut to reach the projected $4.6 million, bringing the total amount of cuts to GCC’s budget to roughly $7 million.

However, cutting $4.6 million from the college’s budget represents one of two scenarios for budget cuts.

The second scenario involves Gov. Gary Davis’ proposed budget, which would mean cuts of up to $7.3 million on top of the $2.4 million in cuts that have already been made. That would still leave the college with $2.6 million that would need to be cut to reach the projected $7.3 million, bringing the total amount of cuts to GCC’s budget now to roughly $9.7 million.

“Then I don’t know. Then I’d have to close down the school and go home,” said Serot, jokingly, if the governor’s proposal, to be finalized in September, were to pass. “It looks very grim for next year. Not so much because the state will continue to decline, but I don’t think the state is in a position to give us any new money.”

Almost 400 classes have been cut this year alone – 157 classes were canceled over the fall 2002, spring and summer 2003 semesters, and 250 classes are on the chopping block for the fall.

“Cuts affect virtually every academic program,” said Vice President of Instructional Services Steve White. White points out that new students and reverse-transfer students (students who take classes at GCC after transfer) will most likely not be able to get into a class. White says he hopes funds from the Save A Class project will be enough to add at least 10 classes in the coming year. Save A Class is a special fund established by White and Serot to lessen the impact of having to cancel classes by raising money – through donations from instructors or fund-raising events – to replace those classes.

And in a more recent move, the Board of Trustees on Tuesday elected to lay off 26 classified employees. Layoffs for classified staff will save the college an additional $1 million, according to Vice President of Administrative Services Larry Serot. Classified employees include gardeners, custodians, technicians, managers and clerical staff.

Nine of the 26 employees laid off came from unrestricted general fund employee positions. These nine positions will save the college about $319,000. The additional layoffs will save the college an additional $700,000.

An increase in costs will pose even more serious problems next year. Serot warned more cuts will be made if costs continue to increase.
The governor has also reduced the Partnership for Excellence fund, which is a program based on the joint efforts of the state and the California Community Colleges system to “significantly expand the contribution of the community colleges to the social and economic success of California,” according to a news release issued in November 2000 by the California Community Chancellor’s office.

According to White, furnishing the Cimmarusti Science Center – set to open in September – has raised an air of concern on the part of the administration.

Unlike the San Gabriel and San Rafael buildings, whose construction and student furniture were covered by state funds, the Cimmarusti Science Center is being constructed out of Measure G funds, federal grants and private donations that do not provide for the center’s furnishing. To that end, White sought funds from an instructional furnishing fund provided to community colleges each year. This fund may only be used to buy equipment for direct student use.

“If a student sat in a chair or worked on a microscope, you could buy it,” said White. This year, however, no money was available.

“We’re scrambling to just put chairs in there,” White said, adding that money had to be scrounged up from other areas in the college budget to provide students with a desk and chair.

Scientific equipment for the science center will be purchased with money that state has agreed to give to the college given that the science center was constructed from separate funds. However, this money will not be released until November when the final budget is passed – two months after the science center opens.

“Despite all of these problems, what goes on here day to day is the same as always,” said White. “We won’t have as many classes, but the classes will still be of the highest quality.””We have a long summer ahead of us,” said Serot.