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Could rising costs put community college out of reach?

 It used to be if you can't go to a four year school, go to community college.  Now, it's like what are you supposed to do if you can't go to community college?   

  Daniel Jean Baptiste, South Seattle Community College student 

Tuition will go up at the state's public two-year colleges by an average of 12 percent this fall.  For a full-time student, tuition will go from $3,542 to $4,000--a 13 percent increase.

The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges voted on the increase to help offset $110 million in state cuts to the community and technical colleges. 

Many students, already struggling to afford school, say it threatens to put higher education out of reach.At a rally  against budget cuts and tuition hikes at South Seattle Community College, student Khadija Hissan holds a sign that says, "I can't live on Ramen alone."

 She says she and her friends are worried about the cost of college. 

“We’re freaking out just trying to figure out how to pay for stuff. It’s like, I don’t have a car, I don’t have bus fare to get here, ” she said.

Full-time students will have to pay an additional $458 next year to attend South Seattle Community College.

Robel Okunamalk, whose family is from Eritrea, says he gets some financial aid, but it still costs him around $2,000 a quarter out of his own pocket to study nursing. He recently got a full time job, but juggling school and work is difficult. 

“I work at Shell gas station full time. They say you should only be working, at most. part time," he said.

 Reuben de Leon  is studying business in hopes of working in the film or music industry some day.  Like many students here, he says, turning to his parents for financial help, isn’t an option.

“My mom’s unemployed and my dad has a painting business, but it’s a seasonal job and not something you can always depend on,” he said.

De Leon says he's been going to school on scholarships, but doesn't have any for next school year.

Putting the 'American Dream' out of reach?

At South Seattle Community College, which prides itself on having the most diverse campus in the state, are many children of immigrants from East Africa, Mexico and Southeast Asia.

Students say even a modest fee or tuition increase of $500 dollars can mean the difference between being able to go to school and not.

Yahya Hussein has plans to transfer to the University of Washington to study Information Technology.  He says his books alone cost $300 this quarter. 

Kimberly Schlosser wants to study culinary arts, but has been unable to afford the books, utensils and uniforms the program requires.  She says with tuition going up and college loan interest rates scheduled to double if Congress doesn’t act, her goal seems even less attainable.

“I don’t think they understand that I may not be able to get to my dream and make a difference because of this," she said.

Khadija Hissan says her parents left war-torn Somalia so their children could have a better life, and now that seems threatened.

"College is now becoming unattainable for everyone right now. It's becoming a privilege and education should not be a privilege. It should be a right given to everyone," she said.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.
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