College of Marin Students March in Sacramento to Protest Budget Cuts
Thousands of Community College Students are Expected to Gather in the State Capitol
Kentfield, CA—March 9 , 2011—About 20 College of Marin students are heading to Sacramento March 14 to join thousands of California community college students on the March in March 2011, an effort to highlight student concerns about proposed budget cuts.
“It is about trying to keep the funding that we have,” says Brittany Bartges, 24, a first-year College of Marin business student who serves as director of public relations for the Associated Students Board and president of the Veterans Association Club. “There’s already so little of it. We’re trying to keep our classes going and the doors open to everybody who wants to come.”
Students are particularly concerned about proposed cuts to programs such as EOPS (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services) and Disabled Students Programs and Services. Tuition increases from $26 per unit to $36 per unit are expected to occur. However, even steeper increases have been discussed that would vastly change the campus landscape.
The statewide effort, sponsored by the Student Senate for California Community College which has organized student leaders via teleconference and social media channels such as Facebook. Community college faculty and staff as well students from the Cal State and UC systems will join California community college students in the march. The community is also invited to participate in the march or by calling state representatives.
“I think it will be big,” Bartges said. “It will be a place for students who are active to get together and share ideas. We want to make policymakers aware that people could be affected by their choices.”
College of Marin students, faculty and supporters, who have made advance reservations, will meet on campus at 6 a.m. and drive by bus to Sacramento to join an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 others on a brief walk to the state Capitol. A small group of students plan to meet with representatives from State Assemblyman Jared Huffman and State Senator Mark Leno’s offices to discuss their concerns.
Although education has taken huge hits in recent years, this time, the proposed cuts are expected to affect an even broader student population, said Arnulfo Cedillo, director of College of Marin Student Affairs and the Health Center. “The cuts have been really devastating for us. When you cut EOPS, a program that serves first generation, low income students, what are you saying to them? Services for the disabled have been cut 60 percent already. These are courses that are helping people with their recovery.”
The cuts mean that fewer people are trying to provide mandated services for more people who need them. The importance of the march is two-fold, according to Cedillo. “Number one is visibility. It’s important that Sacramento legislators see it’s not faculty or staff who are the only ones crying out against the budget cuts, but students are involved. We will be right under the windows of the legislators.”
The second, more long-term import of the march is that through political actions such as these, students learn to play a larger, more active role in the political world, Cedillo said. “Our youth has to pick up the cause and see that they can make a difference. This is a way they can understand that.”
Community colleges are faced “with simply keeping the doors open,” according to the Community College League of California, which seeks to suspend scheduled tax cuts for five years and compromise on proposed cuts to include $12.5 million in budget cuts this year. There were $400 million in state cuts to community colleges in 2009-10 and at least that much is expected this year. If the most severe cuts were adopted for this year, more than 60,000 additional course sections would be eliminated, thousands of full- and part-time faculty and staff would be laid off and training programs for nurses, electricians and computer programmers could be cut, according to the Community College League of California.
“Some students won’t be able to afford tuition increases and will be forced to drop out,” said Raemond Bertstrom-Wood, 19, a first year College of Marin student who is pursuing a degree in electrical engineering and serving on the Associated Students Board as activities director. “This is a community college. It should be for everybody in the community.”