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Auburn students frustrated by rise in Sierra College tuition

Governor Jerry Brown announces nearly $1 billion in cuts, hike in community college tuition
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Sierra College students will pay $10 more per unit following Gov. Jerry Brown’s announcement Dec. 13 that $980 million in cuts to state-funded programs were made to reconcile the state’s budget shortfall. The tuition hike, which raises fees from $36 a unit to $46 a unit, was set by the state and accompanied by $102,000,000 in cuts to California community colleges. The budgets for the University of California System and California State University system were each cut by $100,000,000, according to a press release by the California Department of Finance. Auburn students say they are worried about this latest rise in tuition. Sierra College officials say they are working to minimize the effect of the cuts on students, and the higher fees and program cuts won’t start until summer. Sue Michaels, director of marketing and communications for Sierra College, said the college has healthy reserves that it can tap into for now. Soon, an evaluation of what programs should be cut will have to be made. “We built our current spring class schedule anticipating the current budget, so no further class cuts are scheduled at this time,” Michaels said. “We feel deeply for the individuals that will be faced with higher fees and are working with our foundation to build our scholarship and other funds. But we also understand state officials are in a difficult position.” Michaels said most students don’t realize a rise in tuition fees is often accompanied by cuts to community colleges. That usually translates to less course offerings. Placer High senior DJ Rodriguez said he plans on attending the fire academy at Sierra College in the fall. Currently he is in the 49er Regional Occupational Program for firefighting and works full-time at an automobile shop in the evenings. “I moved out of my house, so I have to pay for everything,” Rodriguez said. He said he talked to other students who are worried about paying for college, too. That same sentiment is being echoed by current students at Sierra College, according to Willy Duncan, Sierra College president. Duncan said Associated Student Body leaders reacted with frustration to the state’s decision to raise tuition this week. “They are frustrated. They feel like the opportunity for college has been closed,” Duncan said. “It’s harder for them to get the classes they need, so it’s taking longer to graduate.” Duncan said he understands the state budget is complex, but believes cuts to education are bad for California in the long-run. He said employers want a trained workforce. “Any cuts in education I oppose,” Duncan said. “Dollars spent on education are never wasted. To me it’s an investment in the future of the state. I think it’s shortsighted. I know cuts have to be made. It’s a choice how every dollar is spent in the state. We should really be looking at the way every dollar single state dollar is spent.” Kyle Bray, Sierra College director of research and planning said the school hasn’t kept statistics about the average time it takes people to transfer to universities and how that may have changed due to the economy in recent years. Bray has noticed that California State University campuses have been accepting fewer transfer students. “We do notice that our main California State University campuses have been accepting fewer transfer students in the last couple of years. That whole system has been challenged by funding cuts, as we all have,” Bray said. “Luckily, UC transfers have been steady throughout that period, but that is a smaller absolute number than our CSU transfers.” Bray said although tuition is often more at private schools, the backlog in the CSU system makes them appealing to some students. Placer High senior Kelly Soto said she wants to go to Sierra before transferring to a private university. “I actually am stressed about paying money for it because they are just getting more expensive every year. I am afraid when I go to transfer they will just cost even more,” Soto said. “Honestly, it’s not fair to us students because most of our parents don’t have the type of money to pay for that.” Soto said she plans on applying for scholarships and working as hard as she can. Right now, she is considering majoring in psychology and becoming a social worker. Placer High junior Emily Rodgers takes American Sign Language classes at Sierra through the academic enrichment program. She said while she is concerned about the rising cost of college and cuts, they might be what is needed to fix the state budget. “I kind of feel like it’s necessary because of our economy,” Rodgers said. “I can’t imagine the budget crisis.” Rodgers said she’s glad high school students can take classes at Sierra at all. While she has another year before she graduates, Rodgers said she hasn’t saved anything for college yet. “I am hoping for scholarships to cover a good portion of it and from there I am just going to have to use student loans because I don’t have anything saved.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.