Students march on state Capitol to protest cuts

March 17, 2003 12:00 am

By CLAIRE ST. JOHN

As Columbia College classes and programs are being whittled away in light of a roughly $34 billion state budget deficit, students are fighting to get their voices heard and their classes back.

Today, students boarded a bus on campus and rode to Sacramento to give the governor and other legislators an idea of how budget cuts are affecting them by marching on the Capitol.

The march was expected to draw community college faculty, students, staff and administrators from all over the state to protest what they see as unfair budget cuts and unreasonable 118-percent fee increases for students.

At Columbia College, fee increases are not the only problems students see. Essential programs and services are fading from campus, open positions are being left unfilled and classes are not being added.

Because of the state's budget crisis, Columbia College is gearing up for $2 million in cuts by next year.

"(We're) looking at all our accounts and all our budgets that may be cut," said Columbia College President Jim Riggs. "Part of our great frustration is we're looking at midyear cuts, and the state has still to define what is to be cut."

The list of services to be cut is lengthy: Child care, the disabled students' program and Partnership for Excellence — a state project that increases transfers from community colleges to universities — are soon to be ghosts.

Library and high-tech center hours, counseling time and assessment services, new books for libraries and other programs are also in jeopardy.

"We were right to the point where we were going to put an infant center on campus, but we had to cut that," Riggs said.

An approved middle-college program — which would allow select high school students to attend college-level classes — is also suspended.

"It's hard to justify a new program when we're having to actually cut positions and lay people off," Riggs said.