CSUEB alumnae cover rising costs to 'Save Our Students'

  • September 8, 2011

When Luanne Rotticci ’87 and Liza Jane MacNaughton ’90 saw news of the 10 percent CSU tuition fee increase in July, following other increases in previous years, they were, in MacNaughton’s words, “horrified.” They were also spurred to action.

As adult students 20 years ago, they’d seen first hand how hard their fellow students were working for their degrees, many balancing work and families and tight budgets. Knowing how difficult it can be to cover additional costs, the two alumnae have established the “Save Our Students” Scholarship Fund to help students struggling with the new higher costs of earning a college degree.

“I’d hate to see someone not be able to finish a degree because of the costs, and not be able to get out of school, get a job and really get going,” Rotticci said.

Both were particularly concerned about students who may not be enrolling because of tuition increases. “Of course I understand this had to happen, because of the state government and budget, but we thought right away of all the students who might have to drop out because of it,” MacNaughton said.

Not only will fees be higher overall, Rotticci noted, the increase came on short notice, only a few months before the start of the 2011-12 academic year.

According to Rhonda Johnson, executive director of CSUEB’s Office of Financial Aid, more than 1,100 undergraduate students who are eligible to re-enroll had not yet done so as of Sept. 1.

Although the university cannot verify every reason continuing students fail to enroll, Johnson said “I think it is safe to assume that the rising cost of registration is a factor for many of these students.”

She added that students who “stop out” and do not enroll for more than two consecutive quarters usually must reapply for admission, complete new paperwork and pay a new application fee. In the long run, Johnson said, “That makes their choice to stop out even more costly.”

The newly established SOS fund is immediately available for CSUEB undergraduates facing financial hardship. Priority will be given to seniors who have filed for graduation, to other upper-division students and to students demonstrating the greatest need.

Students who have not enrolled for the upcoming quarter, and those enrolled only part time, are also encouraged to apply for the scholarship. Although many students manage costs by enrolling in fewer classes, being a part-time student reduces the amount of financial aid students are eligible for, Johnson explained.

Students wishing to apply for SOS scholarships should contact the Office of Financial Aid for an application by e-mail at finaid@csueastbay.edu. All applicants must have filed a 2011-12 FAFSA and will need to complete a personal statement. Students must have a minimum 2.3 grade point average and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The application deadline is Sept. 15, 2011.

Johnson said she is e-mailing information about the scholarship directly to students who haven’t yet registered, as well as to various offices that work closely with students. University Advancement staff and administrators are also spreading the word to faculty.

Rotticci and MacNaughton each contributed to the SOS fund, and have sent letters to friends to drum up additional support. In the message, they wrote that many CSUEB students are “first generation college students who are trying to change their lives and become productive members of society.”

High costs can be a barrier to a college degree, but economic studies show that a college degree is key to professional success. College graduates have higher lifetime earnings and greater career opportunities. Without a degree, students’ job options are limited and less stable.

Both women attended then-Cal State Hayward as part-time adult students. Rotticci earned a B.S. in business and kinesiology and MacNaughton earned a B.A. in Spanish. They went to classes with several other non-traditional students like themselves, who knew the value of higher education.

But college attendance costs overall were more manageable at the time, MacNaughton said. “It was very affordable, even with a family,” she said. A full-time undergraduate education at a CSU now costs triple what it did 10 years ago.

Working students still struggled with costs then, Rotticci said, “and even small amounts of money could be really very important.” That’s still true now, she said, which is why she hopes that even a small scholarship can keep students enrolled even as tuition fees increase.

“I know how an extra $1,000 or $5,000 can really make a difference for someone,” Rotticci said. “I hope students can take advantage of this and keep fighting the good fight.”

Their goal is for the SOS scholarship to continue to be available for students who anticipate having trouble meeting the cost to attend college in the future as well as during the current academic year.

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