Recently, I marched on Sacramento with my fellow students to make our politicians care about California's imperiled future. The governor's cuts to higher education get little debate there, but asking California's wealthiest to contribute a little more to save higher education seems entirely out of the question.
I've returned to college after 23 years in the working world. I'm grateful for the second chance at higher education I've gotten at Berkeley City College. But the economic recovery is jobless, my financial aid package is lagging, and I'm borrowing from nearly tapped friends just to buy books, get to class, eat and pay rent.
I'm one of the lucky ones. My fellow students come to class from one or even two jobs. They spend hours in traffic, on trains and busses, dropping kids off at babysitters as they rush to campus, trying to grab a cup of coffee without being late. They cope with drug-addicted siblings, an alcoholic mother or a father with AIDS, imprisoned cousins needing money in their commissary, and neighborhoods in chaos. These driven, courageous people struggle valiantly to improve their lot in dire circumstances.
The instructors are passionate, well-informed and dedicated to teaching critical thinking and "big picture" understanding. This, in spite of larger class sizes, increased paperwork and devastating budget slashes. Further cuts would be apocalyptic.
The California Budget Project determined that in 2008, fewer than 150,000 Californians had a total income of $208 billion. I can't grasp why these people, after profiting so handsomely from the state's innovations, can't come together to safeguard the state's future.