Rate hikes of any sort are never popular in any economic environment. In this current one, they are especially contentious.College students, who are notoriously short on money, are often the first and the hardest hit during a budget crisis. As evidenced by the recent protests, students from Los Angeles to Sacramento have voiced their outrage time and time again.
Now, with the proposal to raise community college tuition to $40 per unit from the current $26, even more students are likely to lash out against policies on higher education.
What community college students in particular need to realize is that California has the lowest per unit tuition in the country by a fair amount. The proposed fee increase, though it may sound drastic, is not unreasonable.
The Courier recently reported on the high tuition being paid by students in Connecticut. But that state is known for having affluent residents, and many of them can probably pay that steep price without much sacrifice. What about other places where money and opportunities do not flow as freely?
On the island of Kauai in the northwestern corner of Hawaii, there is only one institution of higher learning. Kauai Community College is located in the middle of a field right off the main highway. The campus looks like a large high school and offers only about 20 majors, but students there must pay the same price per unit (currently $79 but going up to $88 for the 2010-2011 school year and to $97 for the following year) as their counterparts at Honolulu Community College, which offers more programs in addition to the opportunities available in a large city. Kauai students, however, cannot afford to complain. For many, it is their only ticket off the island, which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, generally has a higher rate of unemployment than the state average.
But KCC students, with the help of the island community, have found ways to pay for their college education. In addition to public financial aid, KCC, according to its website, offers more privately-funded scholarships than any other community college in the Hawaii system. This is due largely in part to the many local area businesses, which are willing to offer money or job placement to students trying to better themselves and the community.
This is where students on this small island of less than 60,000 put California students to shame. If people on a fairly remote island with no large cities can find ways to pay for college, then why can’t savvy, sophisticated Californians?
Yes, the higher population here means more competition, but it also means more businesses and organizations that sponsor scholarships, so the proportion of students to grants remains roughly the same.
It is not as if the college or even the state is trying to prevent students from getting financial aid. In California anyone-income bracket or intelligence level not withstanding-can get help.
There are also some who fall in that middle area where they or their parents earn too much money to be qualified for the need-based grants but make barely enough to afford the costs of school. For them and for others who do not qualify for various reasons, there is one source that this generation should not take for granted: the internet.
There are thousands of available scholarships listed online, far more than any financial aid office can keep track of. All it takes is some time and patience to sort through and find the pertinent, legitimate ones. The process may be tedious and painstakingly long, but is well worth the trouble in the end.
It is time for students at PCC and all over the state to become proactive in finding alternate ways to pay for their education. The proposed fee increase, while unsavory, is not unreasonable, especially with the many forms of financial aid available to students.
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