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Economy poses post high school challenges
Moriah Constance, Dana Tirnetta, and Tristen Murphy go over a University of California admission packet with East Union Counselor Steve Droullard. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
Things were a little bit easier last year for Paul Bennett.

The Sierra High School counselor – who along with a team of four other counselors handled the workload of advising the student body on everything from class choices to college plans – was hit hard by Manteca Unified’s budget cuts that did away with three of the positions.

Now it’s only Bennett and another longtime counselor charged with handling all of Sierra High School’s students – a group that has also undergone a fair amount change over the course of the last 12 months.

With the unemployment rate in Manteca at an all-time high of 15 percent, students are feeling the crunch when it comes to post-graduation plans that may be changing as family’s financial situations shift as well.

“I think that all families are being affected by this economy right now,” Bennett said. “More parents probably have to tell their kids that they’re going to have to start off at a junior college and not go straight to a university.

“We have a lot of seniors that have enough credits to graduate early, and I used to encourage that if they were going to start college early or enroll in the workforce. Now it’s almost impossible to get a job and it’s a lot harder to get into college – it’s not something that I’m advising anymore.”

Over at Manteca High – which saw its counseling staff cut in half during the budget slashing – students are facing similar situations as the age-old tradition of graduating high school and moving on to college is starting to shift.

According to counselor Martha Dias-Linn, most parents she deals with are concerned about the cost of attending college and how to keep that number as low as possible.

“We had a huge number of people show up for our financial aid night, and that’s something that’s very indicative of the times,” Dias-Linn said. “People are trying to turn to as many places as possible for help because college can be very expensive.”

And while the financial situation may be making things harder on students by scaling back the funding that their parents had one time relied on, it’s also counter-punching with even higher fees that institutions are charging to recoup the money not coming from government coffers.

“The economy stinks, unemployment is up, tuition is through the roof, the UC is starting waiting lists, and community colleges are packed,” Bennett said. “There are definitely a lot of challenges out there for students who want to progress beyond high school.

“But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. It just takes some planning and hard work.”