A drive to save summer school


So much for dreading summer school. At Santa Ana College, the students are buying it back, one class at a time.

Budget cuts at the community college have been severe, eliminating an extra session in January and forcing more than 100 summer courses to be cut, leaving some students panicked that they won’t have the classes needed to be able to transfer to a four-year school this fall or next spring.

“You can’t transfer or graduate without those classes,” said Phien Vu, 40, whose plans to transfer to Cal State Fullerton to study criminal justice will probably have to be put on hold for another semester.


Now, in a move both creative and desperate, students are raising money to help pay for summer classes by selling food and by pleading with politicians -- and even instructors -- to contribute.

For every $4,500 that students raise for the Summer Session Rescue Fund, one class for 30 students will be saved, school administrators say. The school’s nonprofit arm, the Santa Ana College Foundation, has pledged to pay for any shortfall between student fundraising and a full class offering.

For the last few months, members of student government and the Phi Theta Kappa honors society have mobilized by holding rallies and barbecue fundraisers on the campus’ busy quadrangle, peddling hot dogs, candy and soda and hitting up professors and community leaders for donations.

One English student, Jim Yarrow, even lobbied state legislators for funds while on a trip to Sacramento, but got only sympathy.

On a recent afternoon, a group of 10 students eager to save English and math classes this summer grilled hot dogs and burgers, piled up plates of nachos and served soft drinks under a canopy.

“For us, this is a way to do something proactive instead of sitting back and letting a class fly by,” said Richard Santana, 19, who wants to transfer to Cal State Fullerton to study political science.


In one afternoon they took in more than $800. The hot dogs, at $1.50 each, went so fast that they had to run to a store across the street for more. They’ve raised enough so far to save one class, probably a core subject such as English or math. They’re hoping to salvage at least a few more.

The weak economy has added to the enrollment at community colleges such as the 26,000-student campus in Santa Ana. Statewide, the system is over-enrolled by about 100,000 students, according to the Community College League of California.

As the economy tanked and the budget strife in Sacramento worsened, summer classes were slashed and waiting lists for core classes grew.

“Students aren’t able to get the courses they need, and for some that means they’re going to turn away and won’t come back; for others that means it’s going to slow down their progress,” said Erik Skinner, vice chancellor for fiscal policy with the California Community Colleges system.

Joceline Zaragoza, 19, said she joined the campaign in Santa Ana because the scaled-back general education offerings this summer will force her to stay at the college an extra semester before transferring, she hopes, to UC Irvine or UC Santa Barbara to study psychology.

“I’m trying to pursue a better career, but it’s really hard to get into any classes,” she said. “When that resource has been taken away from us, what else are we going to do?”