Santa Ana college professors give their own money to help needy students

Poor students are getting help from their professors at Santa Ana College

And now for a heartwarming story from Santa Ana, courtesy of the L.A. Times, which is reporting that a group of professors at Santa Ana College have banded together to raise money from their own paychecks to help out poor students who are promising but unable to afford their classes. Here are a few excerpts from the L.A. Times article, which was written by Tony Barboza, the reporter who has thus far very capably filled the position vacated by former L.A. Times reporter Jennifer Delson:

Chemistry professor Jeff McMillan is sick of seeing otherwise capable students drop his courses because it costs too much to go to school.

So much so that he is opening his wallet.

McMillan and about a dozen other faculty and staff members at Santa Ana College have started a scholarship fund that they hope will make it easier for low-income students to afford their classes.Starting this fall, each will fund a student’s course fees for a year — about $600 for a full-time schedule. Professors say the donation comes with the satisfaction of knowing the student their money is helping.

The Opportunity Scholarship will be awarded to students with extreme financial need. Instructors will recommend students who have great potential but are struggling to pay for school. Each student will be paired with one of the faculty sponsors, who will serve as an informal mentor.

Most likely to benefit will be students who are not citizens and thus are not eligible for federal student aid or a state program that waives fees for low-income community college students.

At the campus — in the densely populated, impoverished core of Santa Ana — more than 60% of students receive financial aid. But for the 5% of students whom the college says are immigrants or out-of-state residents, the only way to subsidize their education is with highly competitive, private scholarships.

I applaud the professors who have started the Opportunity Scholarship! What a fantastic idea. It is too bad that the immigrant students at Santa Ana College have so few opportunities to get help paying for college. The single biggest problem in the Latino community in this country is a lack of education.

Santa Ana has 337,977 residents, according to the last Census. I have a feeling that our population is actually over 400,000. Many immigrants do not accurately report their information to the Census. At any rate, less than 5,000 residents have graduate degrees. Just over 11,000 have bachelor’s degrees. Under 29,000 have high school diplomas. Over 100,000 have either some high school or less than a ninth grade level of education. And you wonder why we have so much crime in Santa Ana?

Let’s take a look at our neighboring city of Irvine, by comparison. They only have 143,072 residents, per the last Census. Over 21,000 have graduate degrees! That means almost fifteen percent of Irvine residents have graduate degrees, compared to only 1.4% in Santa Ana. Over 30,000 Irvine residents have bachelor’s degrees. That works out to just over 20% of their residents, compared to just over 3% in Santa Ana. Just over 4,000 Irvine residents have either some high school or less than a 9th grade level of education, which comes to just under 3%, compared to almost 30% in Santa Ana.

For those of you who are complaining right now that comparing Santa Ana to Irvine is not fair, let’s take a look at Long Beach, which has 461,522 residents. Over 22,000 Long Beach residents have graduate degrees. Over 43,000 have bachelor’s degrees. That means about 10% of Long Beach residents have such degrees, compared to just over 3% in Santa Ana. Over 75,000 Long Beach residents have either some high school or less than a 9th grade level of education. That comes to 16% compared to Santa Ana’s 30%.

Still don’t think that is a fair comparison? Sigh. Well, how about Albuquerque, New Mexico. They have 448,607 residents. Over 39,000 of their residents have graduate degrees! Over 53,000 have bachelor’s degrees. And while they have 41,000 residents with only some high school or less than a 9th grade level of education, that only comes to 9% of their population, compared to Santa Ana’s 30%.

Or, how about looking at Fresno? They have 427,652 residents. Almost 15,000 have graduate degrees. Over 30,000 have bachelor’s degrees. That comes to 7% of their population, compared to just 3% in Santa Ana. And while 17% of Fresno residents have either some high school or less than a 9th grade level of education, that compares to 30% of Santa Ana residents.

Santa Ana, we have a problem! Now let’s take a look at how many libraries each of the above referenced cities has.

Santa Ana – One library and one “learning center.” The bookmobile has returned as well with very limited service.

Irvine – 3 libraries.

Long Beach – 12 libraries!

Fresno – 7 libraries and a bookmobile service.

Clearly Santa Ana should have signed up with the Orange County library system years ago. But they didn’t and now the other cities in the O.C. system won’t let them in, which I think is B.S. Santa Ana is not a local problem. It is a REGIONAL problem. Our crime doesn’t stay in our city. Believe me, we export plenty of criminals to surrounding cities. They really ought to let Santa Ana into their club. Shame on our Mayor, Miguel Pulido, and our lame City Clowncil for not making libraries a priority.

Santa Ana’s slogan used to be the “education city.” They changed that in the past few years to “Orange County’s Downtown.” I guess Pulido and company finally got tired of people laughing at their former slogan!

So kudos to the Santa Ana College professors who are stepping into the breach to help the young people of Santa Ana. Someone has to because our own local city leaders are asleep at the wheel. Their idea of helping education is to try to pass yet another SAUSD bond measure that will increase our taxes while NOT improving accountability at the SAUSD, which remains the worst school district in Orange County.


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"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.