Lost opportunity

Published 2012-02-21T10:42:00Z”/>


Record highs in university fees, combined with fewer classes available at community colleges, leave the students of this generation in a period of uncertainty.Paul Smeltzer

Marbles rattled around inside pressurized paint cans as students sprayed signs intended for a May 1 protest on the grass outside the Wildcat Store Feb. 12.

Students from Chico State’s chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, or MEChA, sat and kneeled, making signs that read “chop from the top,” “stop the fees” and “make the bosses take the losses” in bright greens, reds and blues, said Juan Guzman, director of MEChA.

The signs made at MEChA’s “Stencil Bombing for Justice” workshop are intended for a protest against perennially rising tuition, which has forced some students out of Chico State, Guzman said.

“I know quite a few who had to drop out because of the financial factor they couldn’t afford,” Guzman said. “Some of our members have taken a year off, because they weren’t able to maintain their grades because they had to get a job to pay for tuition.”

In his January budget proposal, Gov. Jerry Brown suggested $1 billion in cuts to universities in the face of a $28 billion state shortfall.

“Education in the state of California is in a position where not many people take its funding too serious,” Guzman said. “And that’s the problem.”

Other students plan to stay and face an enormous amount of debt after graduating.

Felix De Leon, a sophomore civil engineering major, is already in debt, he said.

“Right now I’m struggling financially, so I’m taking out loans,” De Leon said.

Brown’s cuts to the system have been realized on campus.

The Associated Students Child Development Laboratory has lost $53,000 this year, said Susan Toussaint, the lab’s director. Next year’s potential cuts to the program could prevent college students from using the childcare facilities, which might make higher education inaccessible for student parents.

“Bottom line, there would be no subsidized childcare under the governor’s proposal,” Toussaint said.

<strong>Job opportunities</strong>

Logan Weichers, 39, is a humanities major who previously worked in real estate. When the market crashed, Weichers put his career on hold and decided to go back to school.

Weichers will be hoping for the best when entering the professional world again, he said.

“It’s up in the air,” he said.

Sable Villaescusa, a junior English major, is petitioning to graduate next year but finds job prospects bleak, she said. She plans to continue on to graduate school so she can teach.

In spite of the economy, Austin Walker, a religious studies major, wants to join the field of religious video games, a field in which “only eight people in the world work in,” he said.

<strong>Difficulty of transferring to Chico State</strong>

Fall 2011 set an all-time record for Chico State applicants, with 4,000 first-time freshmen and upper-division transfer applicants, according to Chico State institutional research. Thousands were not admitted.

Similarly, Butte College has had an increase in full-time enrollment from 27 percent to 37 percent over the past four years, according to a Butte-Glenn Community College District report. Meanwhile, the transfer success rate has fallen from 73.1 percent to 67.9 percent in the same amount of time.

Butte College cut 70 courses from its fall 2011 semester to close a $6.5 million shortfall in funding for the 2011-2012 year, according to a news report by Butte College.

Thus, it has become more difficult for students to enroll in the classes they need, said Allan Bee, Chico State’s admissions director.

“Clearly, recent budget cuts have reduced the number of transferable courses that are available in a given semester,” Bee said.

The cuts have forced students to think strategically about class schedules, he said.

“The current reality is definitely requiring students to be more deliberate and forward-thinking in their course planning so that they don’t come up short in their last semester at a community college,” Bee said.

Budget cuts affect courses at Chico State as well. Paul Eggers, a professor of English at Chico State, is teaching 30 students, nearly twice the number of students recommended by the Associated Writing Programs, an organization that promotes literary achievement.

“We’ve had to make adjustments that are not ideal,” Eggers said.

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<strong>Paul Smeltzer can be reached at</strong>

<em>[email protected]</em>


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