Yesterday I was interviewed by our local Fox affiliate KMPH regarding Fresno Pacific University and the news from Fresno State and other CSU campuses that class sections are being cut as a result of the expected state budget. This followed news last week that they would not accept further applications for the fall semester or for next spring. Clint Olivier did the interview and asked a question I wasn’t ready for. (You can see the report at http://www.kmph.com/Global/story.asp?S=10727883&nav=menu612_2 click on the camera symbol.)
Whenever we are called on to do these interviews, we rapidly clear our calendars, begin to anticipate the questions, review notes, and check with others on campus to confirm the information we have. (And in my case, make sure that my head isn’t shiny). Then we spend 20-30 minutes or so with a reporter. Clint told me as we were setting up that I would be on the air for about 8 seconds.
This was a good chance to let people know that Fresno Pacific has room for more students on the main campus and in our regional centers, we are accepting applications, we have increased our financial aid, and that we are trying to meet the needs of students who think they may be without a place to study. In our institutional economy more students equals funding available to provide more classes. We’ve been investing in academic programs and facilities, and faculty are ready.
Then Clint asked how we at Fresno Pacific felt about the news at Fresno State. I had to step back for a second. I wasn’t prepared for this one.
I have been at meetings throughout the last year with representatives from all of the regional colleges and universities, public and independent, coordinated by the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium. We have been working on how we can cooperate to raise the number of students finishing their degrees, and ultimately the higher education attainment level for the Valley. We are in this work together, and whenever one of us suffers, we as a community and as sister institutions all suffer. We’ve been through some budget cutting, and we know what it feels like. The news yesterday was painful to hear (it doesn’t help that I am a Fresno State graduate).
The most disheartening part of the current crisis, for me, is knowing that there are numbers of serious students who will struggle, be delayed, not find courses available and perhaps will stop out completely. We need more educated members or our community, not fewer. We should encourage those with intellectual curiosity, perhaps a hint of scepticism, a desire to understand, and the persistence and openness required to gain that understanding. These are gifts and attitudes that need nurture. They don’t come easily.
For those of us who have been kicking around colleges and universities since we were teenagers, it is almost like our world is falling apart. We are learning to live with it, as is everyone else, and every other profession these days. But for students it can seem like the end of a dream for the future, or the closing of doors on opportunities they were hoping for. This is the real crisis. Those students, the deepened understanding they gain, and the successes they achieve benefit all of us, and help make us a thriving and we hope a more just people and place.
All of us are doing what we can to make this an opportunity for as many students as possible.
So, that is my answer to Clint. Couldn’t fit it into 8 seconds.