Granted, the majority of people who read this do not live in California. But I'm going to write about it anyway. (PS. I totally didn't intend for this to turn into a research paper, but...when I get going, it's hard for me to rein it in sometimes. So please, bear with me).
In case anyone's been living under a rock for the past couple years, California has been dealing with a bit of a budget crisis. It seems that Sacramento's having difficulty balancing their checkbook and schools, from elementary to college-level, have been feeling the effects.In the California state Constitution, education is listed as its number one priority, yet ironically, schools are the programs losing the most funding while the state tries to dig itself out of the hole it's in. Just yesterday, students, staff and administrators marched to protest budget and program cuts and tuition increases in their March in March. Last year, over 8,000 members of the college communit (community colleges, UC's, and Cal State's) joined the march. As soon as the numbers come in for this year's march, I will post them.
I've been saying that I want to do something to try to help, but I wasn't sure what. Well, now I do. I am the student coordinator for Coastline Community College's participation in HAC. What is Hands Across California (HAC)? It is a fundraiser dedication to raising money for the California Community Colleges Scholarship Endowment, which will provide thousands of California residents with scholarships and financial assistance to pursue higher education as it becomes increasingly more expensive--read: impossible--to do so. These budget cuts, quite literally, are killing the future of our state. The Hands Across California fundraiser will continue from now through April 17th, ending in an unprecedented student demonstration. The goal is for students, staff, administrators, friends and supporters to join hands in continuous loops stretching across the entire state. To give you an idea of just how many students that would involve: one mile is approximately 1,000 students.
According to the website for the March in March (http://www.iwillmarch.com/), California community colleges are attended by 2.9 million California residents. The Foundation for California Community Colleges state that this figure represents one-quarter of the nation's community college attendance. Originally created for students wishing to continue their education who do not have the funding to attend a four-year university for all four years, community colleges teach students who have an annual median income between $5,544 and $16,223. Those students who do move on to a four-year institution after graduating from a California community college tend to earn a higher grade-point avarage than students who have attended all four yaers at a university.
Have any of you had to call 911 because your house is on fire? Or had a sick relative in a hospital needing serious medical attention? Or perhaps you need help from the police for whatever reason. If you live in California, odds are the person coming to your aid is a California community college graduate. Our community college system trains approximately eighty percent of all firefighters, law enforcement officers, and medical emergency technicians. Likewise, seventy percent of California nurses receive their training from community colleges. What will happen, if these programs become increasingly expensive or are even cut entirely? Who will come to our aid if there is no affordable institution to train these individuals?
The issue doesn't stop at community colleges. UC's and Cal State's are facing the same setbacks. Answer me this though: If community colleges were created to allow students who could not afford a four-year school right away to pursue their education and these institutions are becoming too expensive for us, how are we going to be able to move on to a four-year?
I'm aware that college students aren't the only ones facing financial difficulties due to economic crises. I'm also aware people may not have the money to donate to a cause besides the one of caring for their own family. This may pale in comparison to the recent and ongoing disaster in Japan, but make no mistake that this is a crisis. If you wish to sign up and save your place in line for April 17th or if you wish to make a donation, please visit http://www.handsacrosscalifornia.org/. You don't have to be a student to participate, so if you're free on April 17th and would like help this cause, sign up and come on down! The "routes" for each region of California is listed on the website here.
Foundation for California Community Colleges (http://www.foundationccc.org/)
I Will March (http://www.iwillmarch.com/)
Hands Across California (http://www.handsacrosscalifornia.org/)