Hands Across California: Community College Students Band Together to Save the System

Hands Across California: Community College Students Band Together to Save the System
Facing a monumental budget crisis, California's community college students took matters into their own hands, holding rallies and conferences for Hands Across California.

California is amidst a genuine budget crisis, and higher education students are feeling the pinch just as much – if not more – than the rest of the state. According to a recent report at Mercury News, Governor Jerry Brown's proposed budget cuts would trim another $400 million from community colleges and raise student fees by 40 percent. Some predict that the reduction would result in about 400,000 community college students being unable to get the necessary courses to complete their degree programs. While lawmakers continue to debate the proposed budget and its effect on California residents, college students are taking matters into their own hands.

What is Hands Across California?

Hands Across California is the latest organized effort by Ken Kragen, known for his work with Hands Across America, NetAid, and We Are the World fundraisers. Kragen entered the picture to help community college advocates raise awareness of the financial needs of students across the state. According to the Huffington Post, this movement, which took place on April 17, served two purposes: to raise awareness of today's college students' critical needs and to raise funding to support needy students through additional scholarships.

Money raised through Hands across California will go directly to support the California Community Colleges Scholarship Endowment. The Bernard Osher Foundation, well known for its support of the California community college system, has pledged a 50 percent match to all funds collected.

On April 17, 2011, community college students, employees, alums, and advocates united in Hands Across California, an event that raised awareness and scholarship funds.

The event is planned for 1.5 million participants, stretching their hands to form a human chain that will reach community college campuses throughout the state. Until June 30, money can also be donated to the event to help increase the scholarship fund.

Jennifer Smith-Hollett, an employee at the Bernard Osher Foundation, told the Walnut Patch that scholarship money collected through the movement will go first to the neediest college students. Hollett said, "It's a chance to bring awareness to the students. It's kind of a demonstration showing that we need to raise this money, not just for this generation, but for future generations."

Students Banding Together

Craig Hernandez, a community college student in California, sees the importance of supporting his student body. Hernandez told the Patch, "With the budget cuts, it's getting harder for students to get the necessary classes. In the fall, they will raise fees to $36 [per unit] and are thinking about raising it even more. I haven't had to struggle that much so far, but it is a burden on folks."

Imani Floyd, another community college student and marketing major, was looking forward to the event. Floyd told The Telescope, "It will get attention, I'd be down." In addition to the numerous students participating in the event, Hands Across California has also garnered attention from many celebrities, including MC Hammer, Quincy Jones, and Arsenio Hall.

This video shows a public service announcement for Hands Across California from NCIS' Mark Harmon.

Jeffrey Fang, a City College student, helped organize the event on his campus. He told Mercury News, "A lot of City College students like me are struggling, doing part-time jobs. We come here because the quality of education is high and the fact that it's really cheap." About 130 students participated in the event at City College this month.

High Participation and Spirits

Mercury News reported that tens of thousands of participants across California joined hands-on at 53 college campuses for the Hands Across California event. Some wore shirts sporting slogans like "No Cutbacks." In addition to the human chain that took place at 2 p.m. on April 17 around campus buildings, many campuses also held rallies, performances, and fairs to promote awareness of the needs of college students and work together toward some viable solutions.

In San Jose, students gathered to exchange ideas and swap strategies to help struggling college students meet the rising expense of higher education. Some ideas that came across the board were book swaps that would allow students who couldn't afford the cost of textbooks and peer counseling that utilizes students to help others entering community college adjust to the transition. The event's students were hand-picked by organizers, and all attended Northern California community colleges.

De Anza College student Osvaldo Cordero told Mercury News, "It was empowering. Knowledge is power—and through hearing each other's experiences, their knowledge became my knowledge." The event included a formal dinner, during which California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott spoke to the crowd. Students also exchanged contact information so they could keep in touch after the event.

About California Community College Students

The average community college student in California earns an annual income of just over $16,000, with one-fourth earning less than $5,544 annually. Most of these students can barely pay the rent, let alone their tuition, according to the report in the Huffington Post. In addition, Mercury News reports that many of the students attending community college in California are foster children or undocumented students who were brought to the United States by their parents when they were very young. For some of these students, finding employment to pay for a college education is nearly impossible.

This video is a promo for the Hands Across America fundraiser.

Donations for Hands across California will be accepted through June 30. Those interested in contributing to the cause can donate online or by texting on their mobile phones.

Questions? Contact us on Facebook. @communitycollegereview


Additional Resources [+]
comments powered by Disqus

Recent Articles

Microcredentials: Tailoring Learning Journeys in Robotics
Microcredentials: Tailoring Learning Journeys in Robotics
Micro-credentials offer a unique opportunity for adult learners to tailor their learning journeys to their specific needs and career aspirations. In this article we explore micro-credentials in robotics.
6 New Features for Community College Students
6 New Features for Community College Students
Check out the new features waiting for community college students heading back to school, from new security procedures, to campus housing, classes and degree programs.
Managing Student Loan Debt: How to Budget for Affordability
Managing Student Loan Debt: How to Budget for Affordability
Struggling with student loan debt? Learn expert strategies on how to effectively manage and budget for affordability. Discover practical tips and insightful advice to take control of your finances and pave the way to financial freedom

Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

College Policies

Community colleges are coping with major budget deficits, and this section covers how students are being impacted. From local fundraising efforts to federal grants, we’ll explore how community colleges are staying afloat despite funding cuts and cost increases.
How Community Colleges Fundraise to Improve Campuses
How Community Colleges Fundraise to Improve Campuses
California Community College System Slammed with Budget Cuts
California Community College System Slammed with Budget Cuts
Community College Curriculum: Drastically Changed by Today's Economy
Community College Curriculum: Drastically Changed by Today's Economy
More Articles
Read more articles (22)