By SAM SCOTT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa Junior College has put its subsidized bus passes on the chopping block.
The college is close to ending a program that allows students to pay $16 for a monthly city bus pass that normally costs $40 and to pay $22.50 for a county pass that otherwise costs $45.
SRJC officials say the program benefits approximately 480 students and costs the school around $130,000 a year — money they would like to see go elsewhere in a tight times even as the program shows signs of growth.
In March, the school sold about $15,500 in county passes, up 24 percent from the same month in 2010. But increased popularity comes at a price to the school in added subsidies.
“Unfortunately, it’s costing the district more and more money at a time when we are scraping together ideas as to how we can reduce our costs to the greatest benefit of most students,” said Doug Roberts, vice-president of business services.
The proposal has received the blessing of various student, faculty, and staff groups. It goes before the Academic Senate on Wednesday. Barring major objections there, the cut will kick in this fall.
The cut is one of numerous ways the state’s budget crisis is playing out on campus, ranging from a potential 38 percent increase in tuition to fewer classes this summer.
News of the decision hadn’t reached students waiting at bus stops near campus Thursday morning. Few were pleased to hear they’ll likely soon be paying more to commute.
Nearly 6 percent of SRJC students take the bus to school, according to a fall survey by the college’s Office of Institutional Research.
“Forty bucks is a lot every month,” said Stephanie Nunez, 18, who takes two buses to get to campus from her home on Sebastopol Road. “I’ll probably have to ask for rides from friends who come here.”
“It would be a big deal,” said Javoris Bryant, a first-year student and wide-receiver on the football team who also takes two buses to school. “Money is tight. I’d have to get a ride or carpool.”
Jessica Jones, the student representative on the college’s parking and transportation committee, which signed off on the idea, said supporting ending the subsidy was one of the most difficult decisions she has made in student government. She said student leaders supported the decision only after SRJC officials agreed to form a task force to look into alternatives for bus users.
“We have a responsibility to fill the gap,” she said.
Roberts said the cut will be delayed until the fall to give students time to adjust.
“We do not want to pull the rug out from anybody,” he said.