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2009 July 13 - 12:00 am

MONEY TREE: SF City College Seeks Donors To Save Courses

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The City College of San Francisco has an unusual pitch for potential donors: For $6,000, the school will save an endangered course of their choice and name the class after the sponsor.

The fundraising scheme is part of the cash-strapped two-year school’s effort to preserve some of the roughly 800 classes it plans to cut as it prepares for a sharp reduction in state funding.

Officials say canceling classes means more students will be turned away, enrolled students will have more trouble getting the courses they want, classrooms will get more crowded and some part-time instructors will lose their jobs.

“It’s a painful choice,” said Peter Goldstein, vice chancellor of finance. “It’s a last resort, but with this big of a reduction in our resources, we have no other option.”

As California seeks to close a $24 billion budget deficit, state lawmakers have proposed cutting funding to the state’s community colleges by 10 percent — or $630 million — over the coming year. That would force the 110-campus system, which educates 2.7 million students, to reduce enrollment by 175,000 and raise fees by 30 percent.

In response to the state’s budget crisis, community colleges already are laying off part-time instructors, increasing class sizes, reducing course offerings, canceling summer sessions and cutting services for poor and disabled students, said Scott Lay, president of the Community College League of California.

The state is set to cut funding even as community colleges report increased demand for classes from laid-off workers, military veterans and high school graduates who cannot afford to attend a four-year college, he said.

“At a time when we should be expanding opportunity to get California’s economy back on track, we are significantly reducing opportunities to attend community college,” Lay said.

To offset the cuts, “colleges are looking to be creative in leveraging private support for what the state is unable to provide this year,” Lay said.

At Santa Ana College in southern California, students launched a fundraising campaign this spring after the school cut 25 percent of its summer schedule, or about 130 classes. Selling hot dogs and hamburgers and seeking community donations, they raised $4,500 — enough to save one math class — and are now trying to raise funds to restore more canceled classes.

“We want to send a message to our state legislators that we don’t want to see any classes cut,” said Alex Flores, student body president. “We feel so strongly that we’re willing to raise our own money for our classes.”

Under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal, City College of San Francisco, which has about 110,000 students, would lose more than 10 percent of its $220 million budget, Goldstein said.

The college plans to cancel about 8 percent of its 9,800 courses over the coming academic year. Classes on the chopping block range from basic human biology and French to photovoltaic installation and advanced martial arts.

Under Chancellor Don Griffin’s fundraising plan, a donor can revive one of the canceled courses and have his or her name attached to the class.

Comments: editor@ccweek.com

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