California community college crowd-sources funding for new classes

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

Imagine this—you just bought a brand new car. You want to take it for a spin to show all of your friends, but you can’t drive it because there’s a “gas” shortage.

Well, a “class” shortage is stalling students throughout California due to state budget cuts. One community college isn’t taking this matter sitting down. In fact, Victor Valley Community College (VVC) is making sure students can hit the gas pedal to success.

“Our thought is we don’t have to be a victim,” said Ginger Onitveros, Executive Director for the Victor Valley College Foundation (VVCF). “There are many challenges facing education, but this one we can overcome today.”

Since May 1st, the VVCF started raising money for Campaign for Classes. The goal is to raise $250,000.

“We want to raise enough money to offer at least 50 classes next year that wouldn’t be offered without the help of the community. We estimated it is going to cost the college a minimum of $5000 to offer each course, so we are raising enough to offer those courses.”

The centerpiece of the campaign is Auto Occupado. For nearly four weeks, a car, donated by Valley Hi Auto Group, has been occupied by different students, staff, faculty, administrators or community members, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The car will be occupied until June 7, graduation day, for a total of 888 hours.

“We’ve reached our halfway mark on raising money. People are responding absolutely positively and quite frankly we’re not going to stop until we’re done,” said Ontiveros.

Victor Valley College currently serves and receives funding for 9,000 full-time students, but Ontiveros says there is a big need to serve even more.

“For spring of 2013, we had 7,667 students that maxed out our waitlists and thousands more who couldn’t even get their names on that list. There’s a huge desire in our community, a hunger for education and a need for it but not enough supply and so that’s why we’re trying to raise funds.”

A majority of students at VVC are living in low income or minority households. Many are first generation college students.

“This community really has a much lower college going rate than any community in the state of California. It’s lower than average, so we do have a big need to try and elevate the education level of our neighbors and our friends. There’s a lot of lower income, first generation students…to see them come alive because of education is something worth investing in.”

State budget cuts have deeply affected all 112 community colleges throughout the state—many have cut classes as well as staff members.

But Governor Jerry Brown’s proposition 30 is supposed to bring some relief.

According to the California Community College’s Chancellors Office, proposition 30 is already making a difference. It will also add approximately 3,300 classes to the system for the spring 2013 semester.

Some believe it’s a step in the right direction, however, it’s not enough.

“If you’re going to take 3,000 classes and divide them amongst the 112 community colleges, it’s not going to even make a dent in the needs here. I’m sure that’s the case across the state. We definitely have a big need here and it’s great to see the community stepping up to support it,” said Ontiveros.

But Ontiveros believes the Governor is making education a priority.

“In governor’s may revised funding plan, he has proposed some additional funding to restore classes to community colleges but it’s not going to meet the needs. So in addition to raise money here, we are also supporting passage, of the legislature of his budget plan because it will mean additional classes to the community colleges.”

A round of applause goes to Victor Valley College and the community for being innovative during these tough times.


Cheryl Getuiza

All stories by: Cheryl Getuiza