For Samantha Ferriola, Santa Rosa Junior College is shaping up as a far more costly affair the second time around.
In 2006, she enrolled at the school backed by a $1,600 Doyle Scholarship that easily covered books and classes.
Five years later, the Doyle is on hold while fees continue to increase. After rising from $26 a unit to $36 this semester, tuition at SRJC will jump to $46 a unit in the summer — more than double its level when Ferriola first enrolled.
"It's huge," said Ferriola, 22, who returned for a second associate's degree, this time in biology. "I was already looking at next semester thinking &‘I'm not sure how I'm going to pay for that yet.'"
The college is launching a new campaign to help students offset the loss of the Doyle, which was funded by the dividends of Exchange Bank until their suspension in 2008.
With Exchange officials signaling they are unlikely to renew dividends any time soon, the college is seeking donations to the "Bridging the Doyle" scholarship.
Kate McClintock, executive director of the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation, said she's hoping newspaper ads, mailers and outreach by school leaders will help bring in $225,000 by the beginning of the scholarship application cycle in the spring.
"We have so many students needing scholarship support and some kind of financial support to come to the college, it's just incredible," McClintock said.
Rick Call, a SRJC trustee who just completed four years as board president, said he'll be appealing for help at the January meeting of the Sonoma County Alliance.
"We want to promote ourselves and give incentives for people to come to the JC," he said.
Still, the college has slim chance of completely filling the void left by the Doyle, which gave out $6.4 million in 2004-2005, its peak year. Individual awards ranged from $1,000 to $1,600.
By contrast, the Bridging the Doyle program gave out $122,500 this school year with awards of $500 each, according to Kris Shear, the school's financial aid director.
More students would have received funds if they had applied, Shear said, guessing some students may not have known about the relatively new scholarship.
Some potential applicants may be forgoing the relatively small amount of Bridging the Doyle for larger federal loans, she said.
Certainly students are looking for money. In the 2010-2011 school year, SRJC students took out $4.3 million in student loans, a 58 percent increase from 2007-2008.
There has also been a surge in applications at SRJC for Board of Governors fee waivers, which cover the cost of tuition for low-income students, Shear said.
In 2001, when she started, SRJC had around 6,000 fee waiver applications. Last year it was about 12,500. So far this year, it's up to 15,000.
"That our highest ever," she said. "And they are still coming in every day."
The increased fees charged by the school go directly to the state, leaving SRJC in no better situation to deal with its own tightening finances, school president Robert Agrella said.
Indeed if more bad news comes out of Sacramento next year, his successor may have to consider renewed class cuts, said Agrella, who retires in January after two decades at the helm. His replacement, Frank Chong, starts Jan. 11.
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