Bouquets and Brickbats: Adult degree program is invaluable

Cal Poly earns a no-class brickbat for proposing to discontinue a valuable night school program for adult re-entry students working on their four-year degrees. If the Adult Degree Program is indeed “self-sustaining,” as Continuing Education Dean Brian Tietje told a Tribune reporter, we can see no good reason to shut it down.

Tietje raised some vague question about the program’s long-term financial viability — an odd tack to take in the same week that the CSU system announces a 15.5 percent fee increase.

Another excuse cited by Tietje — that it’s a problem to have to rely on faculty who also teach classes during the day — is also puzzling. If enough teachers aren’t available to take the night classes, how about hiring a few part-timers? There shouldn’t be any shortage of qualified candidates in a college town.

For a university that’s long been lacking in diversity, shutting down a program that caters to older, nontraditional students is sending the wrong message.

The fact is, not every person has the opportunity to attend college straight out of high school. And those who do might find their education interrupted for any number of reasons — family obligations, economic hardship, job opportunities, the discovery that their chosen fields of study are not the right fit.

Programs like this one, specifically geared to adults who may also be holding down full-time jobs or taking care of families during the day, are an invaluable service to the entire community, as they help ensure employers have a well-qualified work force. We strongly urge Cal Poly to reconsider canceling the Adult Degree Program.

Kudos for transportation service work

We toss all-American bouquets to local bartender Greg Shearer and Ride-On Coordinator Mark Shaffer, for their awesome efforts to ensure that a transportation service for veterans continues to roll.

The Veterans Ride-On Program transports SLO County veterans to VA clinics in Los Angeles, but as Tribune columnist Bill Morem wrote on Thursday, ridership has grown while revenue has dwindled.

Expenses have risen to $42,000 per year, from $26,000.

Shearer and Shaffer — who were instrumental in launching the transportation program in the first place — developed the idea of designating November as Thank a Vet Month. They also put together a number of fundraising efforts, including a golf tournament at Black Lake that takes place this weekend. If you’re not into golf, here’s another way to help: Purchase a red, white or blue bracelet on sale for just $5 apiece. You can pick them up at Madonna Inn, Spencer’s Fresh Markets or by calling Ride-On at 541-8747.

Incoming governor inherits a mess

The latest estimate of the state budget deficit leaves us torn between tossing a giant, red-inked brickbat at outgoing Arnie and state Legislature — or offering a bountiful bouquet of sympathy to Jerry Brown. What the heck, we’ll go with both.

In case you missed the bad news, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office now puts the deficit at $25.4 billion — considerably more than the $19 billion that was assumed when the latest budget was passed. Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor says the state better not count on $3.5 billion in federal aid that had been included in the recently approved budget. He also believes the cost of running prisons and other programs will be higher than expected. On second thought, better make that two bouquets for Jerry.

Rare gull a welcome sight

Finally, we offer a birdseed bouquet to the rare ivory gull that swooped into Grover Beach last weekend. The highly unusual visit attracted scores of dedicated birders from around the state, who watched in awe as the rare gull fed on a seal carcass.

The gull — which nests in the Arctic circle and follows polar bears to scavenge on their kills — was spotted this far south only one other time. Environmental problems relating to climate change may have played a role in this odd migration, so for the bird’s sake, we hope this remains a rare event.