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Jewish Journal

Thanks, Cal State —thanks a lot

By Laura Donney, Tribe Contributor

December 3, 2008 | 10:51 pm

Laura Donney

Laura Donney

I am not applying to a Cal State University (CSU) system school. Let's just get that minor detail out of the way. I have never intended or wished to go to one. In fact, I've aggressively dismissed the notion, and yet I find myself saddened and concerned for my peers and Californian education or lack thereof.

The Cal State system just announced a decrease in admissions by 10,000 applicants, due to the governor's budget cuts. In a year when there are already more college applicants than ever in history, those rejection letters will not go unnoticed.

It isn't that I have friends by the masses that are applying to CSUs; actually the one friend who I know applied to San Francisco State has already been accepted. The problem is the principle of the thing (to use an argument widely taught in high school). When we hear that the one option that has always been guaranteed to us is now an uncertain variable, we can do nothing but doubt. When competition rages from all angles, and the safety we counted on no longer exists, we can do nothing but give up, right?

Wrong, of course, but that's certainly how it feels.

We can concede to taking responsibility for the B average we've gotten and know that Harvard is improbable; we can agree that the internship we passed up limits a chance at Stanford, but when we made those decisions we had in mind that no matter what, college was in the picture, no matter what, getting a higher education was a done deal.

And now what? Now obtaining a degree could take six years instead of four, because of college deferment and prolonged acceptance; now venturing away from home may be unlikely, because to weed out applicants, locals get priority. Now, like always, education bears the burden of neglect -- glorified in theory but ignored in practice.

Recently, I've heard a lot of cross-generational accusations -- middle-age cynics claiming my generation to be founded on apathy, disregard and technology. Yet, I am fairly certain it is not my generation that created the economic distress that consequently crippled college education. No, we are much too self-involved to bother creating economic distress for everyone. I think what this parent generation forgets is that we are the product of their morals, their priorities, their innovations. If we have an iPod (and I'll say right here that I don't) it is because you have given us one.

If I sound bitter, it's because I am. And I don't like exhibiting the mentality of a surly old man bruised by life; trust me. But bitterness has been embedded into us -- my generation, I mean. And this CSU application cutback only reinforces a cynicism that could potentially be interpreted as apathy.

And I know, I know, the CSUs aren't the villain here; I know they don't enjoy turning eligible kids away. And I also know parents and adults didn't plan for this -- you didn't plan for this.

But what I'd like you to understand, CSU administrators and parents everywhere, is that no matter how bad or sympathetic you feel, we are the ones hit the hardest. We are the ones who receive that raw and biting slap in the face reminding us it will all be that much harder.

I wish I could offer a solution, and I realize that I can complain about these cutbacks via angsty teen columns until the cows come home, and there still wouldn't be an answer. The tragedy here is the helplessness I feel -- we feel.

I suppose attacking an entire college system is a magnitudinal feat, and completely reviving such a system cannot be done lickety-split.

So maybe we'll clean up our act in a few years, and that'll be great for those applicants who are again guaranteed a spot among the cadre of Cal State professors and guides. But there will always be this gap, this purgatory of knowers and learners who will have fallen short of an acceptance, when acceptance means everything.

So it goes.

Speak Up!

Tribe, a page by and for teens, appears the first issue of every month in The Jewish Journal. Ninth- to 12th-graders are invited to submit first-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words. Deadline for the January issue is Dec. 15; deadline for the February issue is Jan. 15. Send submissions to julief@jewishjournal.com.

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