By Dora Yrigoyen / Asst. News Editor
By Dora Yrigoyen / Asst. News Editor
Students all over the country and the world are protesting against unfair budget cuts affecting higher education. For Riverside City College students, it is no different.
With $40 million in budget cuts at Riverside City College alone, RCC students can expect higher enrollment fees and smaller class sizes in the fall semester.
Some students fear that their voices won’t be heard and college officials will either increase tuition costs, or completely shut down schools. Colleges across the country have begun closing due to the inability to educate students with insufficient funding.
Students are even going as far as protesting for higher tuition fees, just so they guarantee that their colleges remain open, something Riverside Community College District Chancellor Gregory Gray does not recommend RCC students do.
RCC and community colleges across the nation are based on enrollment fees.
Instead, Gray said that RCCD wants to set its own tuition fees, class size availability and, student enrollment; without the state interfering with those set decisions.
“The first thing I think to determine is, is the system broke? With the unbelievable cuts in funding, $400 million in the entire state community college system, and for Riverside Community College over $40 million for the past three years. My opinion says, yes the system is broke,” Gray said. “If there was ever a time to seriously explore certain reforms, now is the time.”
Gray said the old system is not working and is in need of a change, and a major part of the problem is that everything done at RCC is controlled in Sacramento: tuition fees, class size and availability.
He said the decision to have a Board of Trustees in Riverside, while having every decision determined by Sacramento, is inconsistent.
Gray said that it is unfathomable that the state of California has the same tuition fees for every community college when the cost of living varies in each city, whereas, in other states each city has its own tuition prices based on community needs.
Due to these problems, RCCD has drafted a proposal that the district find other means of obtaining revenue instead of just relying on the state’s budget.
This would allow RCC to set its own tuition fees, how many classes, and students will be allowed to attend the college.
Although, the state may or may not agree with this proposal, Chancellor Gray says it is worth having on the table to discuss.
“A lot of legislators believe we are limiting access to students by increasing our tuition, they don’t appreciate however, that because of our low budget we are cutting out (class) sections, that’s limiting our students worse than student tuition,” Gray said.
With autonomy, Gray said RCC would control its student enrollment and create more class sections for students.
“Every year the state tells us, you have this much money to educate 25,500 (full-time equivalent students),” Gray said. “If we are not dependent upon the state for that money, I do not believe we would be having the magnitude of (class) section cuts we have been having.”
If granted, for RCC students this proposal will result in higher tuition fees. However Gray said the cost of tuition increases, opportunities for financial aid as well.
“The federal government has tremendous financial aid opportunities and Pell Grants,” Gray said. “If you are paying $26 per credit without any financial assistance and they ask you to start paying $50, your financial need increases and financial aid kicks in.”
Gray said other chancellors from different colleges agree the system is broken and needs to be refined. If it can be pulled off, this process would take three years to get everything together.
“We all have the same goal and we need to come collectively together to fix it,” Gray said.
However, some RCC students have mixed feelings about the autonomy.
“Instead of passing the prices on to the little man, I think the upper level administration should take a wage cut,” said RCC student Chris Boyle.
On the other hand, there are students who are open to alternatives in educational funding.
“I believe alternative funding is a great backup plan for the current budget cut problems,” said RCC student Susan Parizek.
In regards to the recent rallies against budget cuts, Chancellor Gray shows his support with words of encouragement for RCC students.
“I support all the students,” Gray said. “One of the realities with a lot of community college students is that they are balancing work and families but I would encourage them to get involved.”