Coast Community College Student Trustee Mike Battistone, and IVC student Christoper Hacela, each have questions to ask about options for lowering students’ costs for textbooks. Jose Solorio, California Assemblyman, 69th District sits to the left. (Shannon Patrick)
The constant fluctuation in textbook prices and tuition, coupled with other problems faced by community college students, was addressed in the annual Orange County Community College Legislative Task Force panel discussion, Friday, April 17, at Irvine Valley College.
California State Assemblyman Jim Silva and Assemblywoman Diane Harkey were present to answer questions from student government representatives and administrators from California community colleges.
“I think we have to figure out financially where we are today and figure out where we are going in the future,” said Silva. “To me, community colleges are the future.”
According to a 2005 study done by CCbenefits, Inc. approximately 272,000 students attend community colleges each year, which is more than 6 percent of the Orange Counties population. In addition, community college graduates tend to make a 17 percent annual return on investment of their time and money versus those who graduate with only a high school degree.
“In these tough economic times, community colleges are the engines that drive economic growth,” said South Orange County Community College District Chancellor Raghu P. Mathur. “The Orange County Legislative Task Force is a dedicated group of trustees advocating on behalf of students.”
Students were able to ask the Assembly members about issues that affect all community colleges throughout the state; questions included the high cost of textbooks and the inability to return some at the end of the semester, causing students to lose out on what could be much needed money. The student representatives also brought up the issue of funds going to incarceration; with the downfall in the economy, the legislature is spending more money per capita to lock up a juvenile than to send someone to college.
“I think [the discussion] was very helpful,” said Christina Andrews, 19, philosophy. “I was very encouraged that they were looking at the textbook fees.”
Textbooks are a recurring problem for students throughout the community college system. Members of the student government talked about the idea of installing a loan system for books. This would entail the institution buying a number of books for the school and then having students rent them for the semester instead of having to purchase the book and worry about the negative return on investment when selling it back at the end of the semester.
“I was very satisfied with the questions that were answered,” said Chris Hacela, 19, political science. “They [Assembly members Silva and Harkey] talked about the relationship between the state Legislature and the people. The people are the ones who really pass laws.”
All the issues discussed in the panel were very important to the success of the community college system in Orange County. This panel allowed Silva and Harkey to come from Sacramento and listen to a first-hand view of students’ perspective of problems with the system. This provided the opportunity to focus on the students rather than just focusing on the school.
“Anytime we have our Orange County Legislative representatives talking about community college issues it’s very important and helpful, not only for Saddleback College, but for community colleges in general,” said Saddleback College President Tod Burnett. “Some of the issues they touched on—student fees, textbook costs, funding in Sacramento—were very helpful to us.”
Although most questions were answered, there was talk of wanting more frequent meetings allowing the opportunity to open a dialogue between students and Assembly members.
Further information about the Orange County Community College Legislative Task Force is available on the Web at http://www.occcltf.org.
Students and administrators from the South Orange County Community College District pose for a photo. (Shannon Patrick)
Thomas Fuente, SOCCCD Trustee, speaks during the question and answer segment. (Shannon Patrick)