The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

DSS budget excludes tutoring program

Stephanie Elliott is tutred by Shirley LaFavre. (Travis Jenkins/The Inquirer 2010)

While severe budget cuts have affected students campus wide, those with disabilities have been hit the hardest with financial reductions to the Disability Support Services office resulting in their tutoring services being cut completely.

The DSS program is primarily financed by categorical funding from the state, said Chris Leivas, vice president of finance and administration, with only a small portion of support for the program coming from general college funds.

The state reduced categorical funding for DSS by about 49 percent in the 2009 – 2010 fiscal year, Leivas said.

“When taking budget cuts in general college funds for the 10-11 fiscal year,” Leivas said in an email interview, “the [Extended Opportunity Programs and Services] and DSS programs were treated the same as all other programs charged to general college funds.”

He also explained that because DVC took large budget cuts last year, all programs were drastically impacted campus-wide.

“We did our best to preserve to the extent possible the valuable services provided by our EOPS and DSS programs,” Leivas said.

Students, however, are feeling the effects of the financial cuts.

DSS student Michael Burnside said he is concerned that there are no science tutors in the DSS department.

His contribution toward a solution is the founding of Club A3, which, with the help of volunteers, aims to provide certain services for disabled students, such as tutoring, that have been reduced or cut entirely.

Last semester, DSS student Patrick Ehrhard requested an allocation of $5000 from the student government to DSS.

His intent, he said, was for the full amount to go towards the program’s tutoring.

However, Terry Armstrong, dean of counseling and student support services, said the sum requested was too small to make any real difference in the tutoring cut. In fact, when Ehrhard announced his intention to request the money, DSS discouraged it.

“We said ‘don’t,'” Armstrong said, “because it will not get anything done. It will only be a tiny Band-aid. Basically $5000 is what we used to spend on tutoring in a week.”

But Ehrhard’s frustration with the lack of support for DSS prompted him to ask the Associated Students of DVC for the small amount to help fund tutoring services.

“I saw a need,” Ehrhard said of his fund request. “If I help out DSS, they can better help me.”

DSS manager Stacey Shears said the money for tutoring is simply not there. Tutoring is not a federally mandated provision, which is why the college made the decision to cut DSS tutoring entirely.

The services that are federally mandated under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act include such aids as physical access to campus buildings, interpreting and captioning for deaf and blind students, testing accommodation, alternate media and the provision of counseling.

The department also doesn’t have the money to pay note-takers anymore, so they must rely on volunteers to provide the service for disabled students. This has proved difficult for the department in getting adequate help for note-taking.

“It has been a challenge without a huge incentive to get people to step up to spend a little of the time it takes to copy their notes in the DSS office,” Armstrong said.

This semester, DSS is providing a new incentive for those willing to take notes: students providing all the notes they have copied this semester and agreeing to take notes for the rest of the semester will be given early registration for the spring 2011 semester, according to Lisa Martin, DSS note taking coordinator. The students must sign up by October 18 to participate in this program.

The DSS program has been cut to a skeletal structure of provisions in what has been a process since 2009.

“We’ve been bracing since 2009,” Shears said. “We were cut much more than the general community college fund.”

The department heard in fall of 2009 that there would be statewide cuts, which was when they made a decision to cut certain services, like tutoring.

In order to make the hard financial decisions regarding funding cuts, Shears said, the department managers discussed the issue with DSS managers statewide about “survival” in this time, as well as with DSS staff and faculty, and the vice presidents of student services and finance and administration.

“Success, as much as we want our students to be successful, isn’t really part of the mandate,” Shears explained. “It’s more about access.”

Her suggestion, in the difficult financial time, is to improve campus-wide tutoring, so that all students can be more successful.

Shears is disappointed, though, that the neediest in the DVC community seem to be hit the hardest.

“We are managing as best we can,” Shears said. “It seems to be the students [who] have the most needs are being cut the most.”


Contact Annie Sciacca at [email protected]


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About the Contributor
Annie Sciacca, Editor-in-chief
Co-editor-in-chief, fall 2010.

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DSS budget excludes tutoring program