Another View

Sierra College deserves support

By: Bill Martin Member, Sierra College Board of Trustees
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Recently I made public comments to the Board of Supervisors expressing concern that regional planning does not provide for the needs of Sierra College, which may grow to 40,000 students by 2035. Community colleges are increasingly important to any region’s infrastructure since they provide lower division education to about 70 percent of college students and also provide career technical education and lifelong learning for everyone. Subsequently, I have been asked to suggest what the public can do to help the college. Here are some thoughts in that regard. Respect what we do: Sierra is a community of 200 full-time instructors, 900 part-time instructors, 300 staff and 20,000 students. They are deserving of respect. Our faculty is dedicated and hard working and thousands of our students are heroic in supporting themselves while attending college. Be proud of us: We set high standards for our faculty. The caliber of teaching at Sierra surpasses most universities. Many on our faculty are nationally recognized in their fields. Our students surpass statewide averages for graduation rates. As one faculty member recently proudly said, “We rock!” Use us: There is certain to be something at Sierra that you would enjoy. Visit our natural history museum, the only one in the Sacramento region. Visit our art gallery. Come to a concert or a play. See a football game. Take an online class. Attend a free lifelong learning class and write your own autobiography. You own us and you are entitled to use us. Don’t expect perfection: Our total college community approaches 25,000 people and we spend $100 million per year. Every year, thousands of hard decisions are made among close alternatives. Don’t give up on our mission when we do something you don’t like or spend money in a way that you disagree with. Recognize that we are an investment yielding high returns: We graduate and train almost 3,000 people per year. On average, each will earn more than $400,000 extra in his career as a result of his attainment at Sierra. Thus the long-term earning power we deliver per year is over $1.2 billion in return for the $100 million we spend. We are a good deal for you. Recognize that you receive high value from Sierra even if you never attend: Statewide, 70 percent of nurses receive their training at community colleges as do 80 percent of firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians, not to mention providing lower-division education to tens of thousands of teachers. Everyone benefits from a strong Sierra College. Don’t get mad when we make our case for support: Sierra College is perhaps the most poorly supported higher education institution in California. Placer County last passed a bond for Sierra in 1957. Sierra ranks 70th out of the 72 community college districts in capital investment per student. Most of our buildings are old, outdated, and decaying. To serve the projected 40,000 students by 2035, a substantial investment may be needed. The alternatives are to force students to go elsewhere or to forego higher education. Both should be unthinkable. Become our advocates: Encourage your supervisor, city council and assemblyman to recognize the essential role of your community’s college and to provide appropriate planning and support for it. You have three votes: Three seats on our Board of Trustees are up for election this November, and because we vote at-large across the district, you can vote for all three. Care enough to study the candidates’ qualifications and maturity. Think about who will best support public higher education. Make three informed choices. The American Association of University Women takes as its basic premise “quality public education is the foundation of a democratic society.” If you do nothing else but respect this view, that is all Sierra College needs because everything else derives from it. – Bill Martin is a Sierra College Trustee representing the Auburn area. He can be reached at