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Thousands of Community College Students Rally against Fees

March 28th, 2004

Students rally against fees By Jake Henshaw

The Salinas Californian Capitol Bureau

SACRAMENTO -- Thousands of community college students from Salinas and across the state on Monday returned to the Capitol for a second year (see pictures) to complain that state policymakers continue to tarnish the Golden State's promise of higher education.

After suffering a 64 percent fee increase last year, community college students this year are facing a proposal for another 44 percent boost.

"The governor's proposals on fees are unacceptable," Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, told students with signs saying "Cut Fees, not Classes" and "Keep the Door Open."

Rally participants, who set up mannequins symbolizing students who dropped out after last year's fee increases, said additional increases will make it difficult for some students to continue and an inadequate budget will make it harder for them to get classes. "It will be really hard for me to come back" if fees go up, said Ruben Sanchez, 19, a sophomore at Hartnell College in Salinas, who said he also works as a door-to-door scheduler for window installation.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget calls for increasing fees from $18 per unit now to $26 for students without a degree. Last budget year, this fee was $11 per unit. Schwarzenegger proposes to increase General Fund support for community colleges from $2.3 billion to $2.4 billion.

The total budget for 2004-05 -- which also includes property taxes, federal and lottery funds, student fees and other revenue -- is $6.9 billion.

Community colleges are the only part of higher education that would get an increase under the governor's plan. The University of California and California State University face cuts as well as likely fee increases.

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