State

Class cuts, higher fees raise anxiety at CSUS

TURLOCK — In her years on campus, Renae Floyd has seen a variety of problems presented at the California State University, Stanislaus, counseling center.

Homesickness, mood instability, anxiety, depression, relationship troubles, substance abuse problems, those are all norms on most college campuses.

Until this year, the licensed marriage and family therapist said, she'd never had a student come in and say she couldn't feed her family.

"Students experience financial stress as extremely anxiety-producing," Floyd said.

This year, with the economy faltering and the CSU system cutting back on classes and raising fees, that anxiety is at a fever pitch.

CSU Stanislaus students are paying $4,775 in fees, compared with $3,819 last year. A 10 percent fee hike is possible next year.

Because of the state's unbalanced budget, the CSU system had to make $584 million in cuts. Stanislaus' share was $13.5 million. They were achieved through faculty and staff layoffs, program cuts and furlough days.

More cuts are certain. The university has warned its lecturers — more than 100 nontenured positions — that they are likely to lose their jobs when the new budget is released.

At the same time, the counseling services department, like the rest of the general faculty and staff, has experienced cutbacks that have taken away half its six-person counseling staff.

"In terms of the demand and what we're facing, we just don't have what we need to meet it," Floyd said. The counselors do what they can, meeting with the most acute cases and offering referrals for others.

Even students who don't seek psychological services say the mood on campus is downcast these days.

"Money's a big issue," said sophomore Jeanette Ochoa, 19. "It's stressing all of us out."

Ochoa said she doesn't get financial aid. Her parents are getting ready to send her younger sister to college, as well.

"I don't know how they're going to do it with two," she said.

At the same time students are paying more, they're finding it hard to get the classes they need to graduate on time.

Most students understand the university is being forced to cut programs, classes and employees, but they don't like paying more for less, Floyd said.

Sociology student Barbara Olave said she's in a group of students who have taken a "frustrating" situation as impetus to fight to retain more classes, including the recently canceled winter term.

A formerly homeless single mother, Olave said she's familiar with desperate situations.

"If it doesn't hurt, people don't get involved," she said. Her group is planning a walkout Wednesday.

The cutbacks and added stress exacerbate a tenuous time for many college students.

"A lot of major mental disorders manifest in early adulthood," Floyd said.

On the positive side, the clientele is trying to make changes.

"College students are motivated," Floyd said. "They're not being coerced to come, and they're usually grateful."

Ochoa has found her own release.

"It's better when I get out of classes, when I'm with my friends," she said. "I'm in a sorority. I'm still having the college experience. The weekends, that's the time we forget about all the stress and everything."

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.

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