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Students scale back dreams due to economic reality


The first time I really noticed budget cuts was when I was a sophomore. My brother Aress was a senior at John O’Connell High School – and quite enthusiastic about going to Chico or San Diego State. My other brother Mario had applied and was accepted to Ex'pression College in the East Bay, a private school. While Aress received the letter for financial aid and added up all the scholarship money, Mario applied for a loan so he could afford to go to his school of choice. Both of them ended up with what seemed like a great deal of money, my family was really happy.

But that money turned out not to be enough. Mario had to drop out after the first semester because we couldn’t afford to keep him enrolled. He’s still paying off the loan he barely used. Aress ended up at San Francisco State. Not that it’s a bad school or anything, but it wasn’t his first or second choice.

That was in 2011, when California public universities had about $100 million less than they needed and community colleges were short $116 million. Now, those gaps are even bigger. Budget cuts have forced many schools to cut down on scholarships, even to admit fewer students. That could change if the governor’s tax initiative passes in November, but it’s not guaranteed. I wonder what this mean for students like me.

Many students go to community college with a plan to then transfer to a UC or CSU, because it’s much cheaper that way. But now, even community colleges are getting more expensive, so even that seems less possible.

So as I start my senior year of high school, I have less hope that I’ll be able to attend the school of my choice. Less hope of standing out more in this society so I can go farther in life. People will notice if you go to Stanford or Berkeley. But they won’t remember the name of your community college. I want to be an audio engineer and a filmmaker. I also hope to someday work for a nonprofit, or maybe run my own.

To do what I want to do, not going to college is not an option. I’ve already seen my brothers scale back their dreams. And all of these budget cuts might force me to cut back on my dreams, too.