|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Monday, June 21, 2004
San Francisco Examiner 6-21-04
REDWOOD CITY -- Over the next few weeks in Sacramento, the political wrestling over the state's budget crisis may boil down to a question about the future of people like Isabel Morelos.
Morelos, a 20-year-old Canada College student, supports herself and her 3-year-old son through a work-study program and a meager $10,000 in financial aid. Her dream is to move on to the University of California to get a bachelor's degree in psychology.
But proposed cutbacks to higher education systems in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's revised state budget could eliminate the financial aid that Morelos says allows her to attend her local community college.
The "budget cuts are really, really closing my dreams," she said. "If it was not for financial aid and having a community college nearby, I would not be able to get an education."
"The Democratic caucuses ... have drawn the line. We are not going to support a budget that devastates the system," said state Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.
A committee of Democratic leaders will be negotiating with the Republican governor over the next weeks to reach a budget compromise acceptable to both. The final budget is due by July 1.
In May, the governor reached an agreement with UC and CSU administrators that called for enrollment caps, tuition hikes and steering some freshmen to the community college system. In exchange, the governor pledged to allow funding and enrollment increases starting in 2005.
UC and CSU administrators essentially adopted the plan, turning away a combined total of 38,000 students, some of whom will end up transferring to other states or postponing their education.
Many will turn to their local community college district to wait out the cap, administrators predict.
"We are anticipating a lot of increased demand because of that phenomenon," said Robert Turnage, vice chancellor for fiscal policy for the state's community college system.
Under the governor's plan, tuition fees for community college students will jump from $18 per unit to $26 per unit. The increase will cost the average full-time student an additional $208 per year, relieving the state of part of its burden to fund the districts.
Democrats have already agreed that steep fee increases are necessary to fund the community college system, but are pushing for an Assembly plan that would lower the increase to $22 per unit.
Either way, tuition fees will still be the lowest in the nation.
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