By Daniella Molina
East Los Angeles College students will have the chance to participate in a state-wide event called “Hands Across California” on April 17.
The event will consist of approximately 1.5 million people holding hands across the state to protest the fee increases in higher education and raise funds for scholarships to benefit Californians attending community colleges.
The purpose is to illustrate the value of California community colleges in a demonstration that will bring together millions.
The California Community College system is the largest system in the world, consisting of 112 colleges in 72 districts serving 3 million students.
The state’s fiscal crisis and deep budget cuts have led officials to increase student enrollment fees.
A CCC chancellor’s office report featured figures that show that fees increased from $11 to $18 from 2003 to 2004 and then from $18 to $26 from 2005 to 2006.
The increase in fees and budget cuts resulted in a dramatic drop of student enrollment of approximately 230,000-315,000 students and a loss of 12,000 course sections.
“Our experience indicates that a fee increase drives away students and that for a fee increase to achieve its goal it must be moderate,” said CCC Vice Chancellor Terri Carbaugh.
Between 2008 and 2009, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the state budget, making cuts to community colleges that led to even more programs and classes being cut.
A proposed fee increase beginning July 2011 would increase fees from $26 to $36 per unit.
Although many community college students currently receive Pell Grants, Cal grants and fee waivers to help them pay for fees, these aid programs will not leverage additional federal aid for students.
“The Pell Grant won’t increase as the result of the state taking action to increase fees.
“Community college students will have less money available to cover other educationally related expenses such as textbooks,” said Carbaugh.
While the state struggles to find a financial antidote, “Hands Across California” is reaching to students who are interested in taking a stand.
Event partner Ken Kragen, architect of “We Are The World,” “Hands Across America” and “NetAid,” set out with the CCC Foundation to raise funds and awareness benefiting the CCC Scholarship Endowment.
“Hands Across California” has a number of high profile members participating towards the success of the state wide spectacle.
Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, an ELAC alumnus, will participate in the event.
Other hands also to be extended will be those of legendary record producer Quincy Jones, Billboard chart-topping band Hootie and the Blow Fish, TV personalities Suzanne Whang from “House Hunters” and recently-added award-winning comedian George Lopez from “Lopez Tonight.”
The “On Board” list continues with several community leaders, activists and award-winning actors, such as the first African-American woman speaker of the California assembly, Karen Bass, along with Tony-award winning actor Ben Vereen and actress Michelle Lee.
Yahoo.com and Bing.com are also contributing in the monumental movements.
Both organizations are developing online applications for participants to view the “Hands across California” route.
The route will be a continuous loop from north of Sacramento across to the Bay Area, around the Peninsula, down the Central Coast, through Los Angeles and Orange County to San Diego, back up through Orange County and the Inland Empire, through the Central Valley and back to Sacramento.
All ELAC student clubs have united to support this event and strongly encourage other students, faculty, family and friends to join the movement toward a better future for students, the state and the generations to come.
Elans interested in joining hands and standing together can go to www.handsacrosscalifornia.org to register for the event.