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What's the state of Sierra College?

Budget deficits, fighting remedial numbers part of breakfast presentation
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Editor
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Efforts to reduce the number of remedial students and how to handle more possible cuts were presented at Sierra College?s annual President?s Breakfast recently. College President Willy Duncan spoke of plans to include a new science and math building to make the Rocklin-based community college a regional science hub. However, those plans and the 2011-12 budget remain on hold and in limbo based on funding or lack thereof from the state. Duncan said there could be a $7 million to $8 million disparity in what the college may get for its budget. That disparity accounts for 10 percent to 12 percent of the school?s budget, he added. Some times the school is criticized for its strong reserves, Duncan said, but those reserves are necessary if and when the school has to make up for a shortfall. Duncan also told a crowd of regional education leaders, law enforcement and elected representatives Thursday that he?s ?not thrilled? with Gov. Jerry Brown using education as ?bait? to pass more taxes. ?If the voters pass the taxes, education doesn?t get anything new and if voters don?t pass them, we get massive cuts,? Duncan said. ?We?re the chum in the water.? Duncan warned if budget cuts continue, the college will have to make ?major? changes. ?Community colleges will not look the same,? Duncan said. Region?s high schools benefit from college prep program One Placer County school district had graduating seniors at almost double the state percentage of college ready students in English. That success is attributed to Sierra College?s early assessment program, according to Mandy Davies, vice president of student services at Sierra, and Joy Salvetti, director of Sacramento State?s Center for College Readiness. Salvetti said in 2011 40 percent of Rocklin Unified School District students were ready for college English. ?That is unheard of statewide,? Salvetti said. Salvetti said in 2007 CSU Chancellor Charles Reed set a goal of 95 percent readiness. Today, 23 percent of students statewide are ready for college English while 15 percent are ready for college math. ?It?s probably the No. 1 section we teach is that remedial level math class,? Davies said, referring to Sierra College?s remedial course. Both Davies and Salvetti said they are working to expand communication and collaboration with regional high schools to test students there and then offer a college prep class in math and English. High school students who are recommended to take the class and pass it do not have to take the college entrance exam or a remedial class. Davies said currently about 40 to 50 high school students are enrolled in the class at Lincoln. Justice program, internships help students build careers Helping the next generation of law enforcement get a start is what the college?s Administration of Justice/Cadet program does, based on a presentation from Nick Willick, retired Auburn Police chief and professor/coordinator of Administration Justice. Willick said Sierra College students in the program fill out an application, are interviewed and then go through a background check before they are trained to become a cadet. The program is a partnership with the Rocklin Police Department and cadets work under officer supervision. Once a cadet, they patrol the campus and do traffic enforcement. ?They?re the eyes and ears for the (Rocklin) police department,? Willick said. Willick estimated that the cadets, who are unpaid, collect over $70,000 through traffic enforcement at the college. He said funds will be used to maintain parking lots. In other ways to help students advance their careers, Brook Oliver, professor counseling, talked about the benefits of the college?s experiential learning/internships. Andy Rolleri of Roseville-based Prima, one of the largest publishers of video game strategy books, spoke of the benefits of using Sierra College student intern Joanie Chew. Chew?s three months of work copy editing for the company paid off. She is now a paid freelance editor and is currently working on a few projects for the company. ?My experience at Prima was really really gratifying,? Chew said. Closing remarks Duncan reiterated that student access continues to be the college?s biggest issue. Many students can get in the college but not into classrooms. ?It?s the first time this generation of students has less access to higher education than previous generations,? Duncan said. ?I?m not sure the best way to tackle it, but we need a paradigm shift? shake up the traditional model.?