Some alternatives before we break out into protests

SO09-DealWithIt-JP-01Aaron
Helmbrecht

CSUN operated in the midst of an approximately $41 million budget cut in the Fall 2009 semester, which led to cutbacks, including faculty furlough days, class cancellations, and tuition and fee increases. In response, students and faculty held numerous protest rallies and created video petitions venting their frustration at Sacramento. All of these efforts materialized into absolutely nothing.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has promised additional, “across-the-board,” cuts in January in response to the new projected state budget deficit of $21 billion for the coming fiscal year.

What needs to be understood is that there is no more money. We spent it all. And no amount of protesting is going to get any more blood out of this stone. But there are practical things students can do to make this situation work. So before you break out the pitchforks and torches, here are some things you can try.

Tuition and fees have increased 30 percent in the fall over the previous semester. Certainly no one is happy about that. But let’s try to keep this in perspective. Even with the increase, CSUN students still pay some of the lowest tuition rates in the country.

According to the College Board Association’s Web site, the national average for tuition at a public university is $3,510 per semester. CSUN student tuition has increased to just $2,408 per semester. Additionally, with the federal Pell Grant, State University Grant, and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, not only does college not cost a dime, we are getting paid to go to school.

If you are working, many corporations, and some small businesses, offer reimbursement for tuition and books to their employees. They just don’t advertise it. Ask your boss, human resources department, or research it yourself if you’re not sure.

Class sizes are increasing, and some classes that don’t fill up are getting eliminated altogether. This means that it is nearly impossible for students to add a class after crashing it, and almost certainly impossible to retake a class after failing it. The solution to the latter is fairly obvious: don’t fail the class.

CSUN finance professor Mike Phillips, who teaches an upper-division general elective course in personal finance (FIN 302), says his course is not very difficult. Half of his students who complete the course get an A or B, but 40 percent of all students fail. Not because their work is unsatisfactory, but because they simply stop doing the work. These people should not get sympathy or special treatment under normal circumstances, let alone in a financial crisis.

If you failed after legitimately trying, then take a different elective or change your major because college isn’t going to get any easier. As for the former, since you know the chances of adding classes are slim, register for the classes you need on time. Figure out your schedule and select classes before your registration date. When the date arrives, register for all your classes at once. For most students, the field will be wide open.

I’m not saying the budget cuts are no big deal, because they are. Some classes that are mandatory for graduation are being canceled, and good professors are dealing with salary cuts and possible layoffs. Personally, I had my petition for a second semester of independent study denied due to the budgetary restrictions. But since college is supposed to be a learning experience, maybe we can take this as an opportunity to learn something beyond what’s in our textbooks.

The lesson is that things aren’t always going to go according to plan. Sometimes life will throw you a curveball. When it does, you can learn how to change your swing and adjust to it. Or you can spit in one hand and protest in the other and see which one fills up faster.