Gov. Brown budget would increase SRJC fees 38.5 percent

  • Dakota Spillman waits in line to apply for financial aid before the start of the spring semester at Bernard C. Plover Hall on the Santa Rosa Junior College campus in Santa Rosa, California on Monday, January 10, 2011. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

The cost of attending Santa Rosa Junior College would raise 38.5 percent under the budget Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled Monday — with tuition hikes also likely at Sonoma State University.

But the potential pain of paying more could be overshadowed by increased frustration at getting classes at all.

Brown's proposal slices $400 million off the state community college system's funding, a 6.8 percent reduction. Exactly where that money would come from remains to be seen, but the ramifications would likely force SRJC to significantly cut academic offerings.

"That would mean real additional belt-tightening," said Robert Agrella, SRJC's president. "The only way we could begin to look at it would be large additional reductions in the schedule of classes."

Agrella said he understood dire times called for dire measures and was grateful that Brown called for the cuts in next year's budget rather than in mid-year.

"If we're going to get reductions, at least he gave us a little more breathing room and a little more time to plan for them," he said.

But Scott Lay, president of Community College League of California, said the budget process was beginning from a worse than expected starting point. If voters don't approve tax increases, the colleges could lose an additional $500 million, he said.

Lay said he hoped colleges would be able to make reductions on their own rather than having a mandate to reduce areas like art or physical education.

"They need to help us to have a sensible community college budget, and we're not there yet," he said. "We really want to keep it as much as possible a college-by-college examination of what courses are putting students to work."

For student Dakota Spillman, the more immediate concern was the proposed increase in fees from $26 to $36 a unit, which would equate to an additional $120 to $150 a semester for someone taking a full-load.

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