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Why So Many Swedes at SBCC?

They Are After the Business/Marketing Certificate


IT’S A MECCA: When registration time came around at Santa Barbara City College this fall, people couldn’t help noticing all the blond heads and Swedish accents.

What was that all about, some wondered? How did so many students from a small Scandinavian country decide to study here and not, for example, Bakersfield?

Are they paying their fair share of academic costs? Were they crowding out our local kids? Is SBCC actively recruiting foreign students? With four City College incumbent trustees facing challengers in the November 2 election, some of these questions came up at the forums.

Barney Brantingham

One Scandinavian student I met told me this: “Coming from a small country like Sweden, many young people dream of going abroad to study. SBCC is one of the cheapest schools for them to attend. We are required to take 12 units minimum per semester.” (International students pay $203 per unit, on top of the normal $26 per unit tuition fee that California residents pay.)

“Many Swedes decide to go through an organization which cooperates with SBCC,” the student told me. “Therefore, many Swedish students go here to get the business/marketing certificate that is being offered. The climate also plays a huge part and the fact that so many other Swedes have been here before, so they hear about it through family, friends, etc.

“Certain classes can be transferred to Sweden, but very few of them. When going through this organization, the classes are chosen for the students, and they’re guaranteed places in the required classes. But many Swedes come here just for one semester, only to take random classes. A lot of them only take physical education classes, and view this more as a vacation. In those cases, none of what they do here will matter back in Sweden.

“The Swedish government does give them money through something called CSN. They get around $2,000 per semester. They can also take up student loans if they need additional money.”

Actually, the largest international student group is from China, with 320, compared with Sweden’s 251, according to college spokeswoman Joan Galvan. And at a time of state funding cutbacks, the high tuition the students pay is extra income that helps the college offer a greater course selection, Galvan said. They “do not displace or crowd out” the locals, she said. “New incoming international students cannot register until two weeks prior to the beginning of the semester, by which time the majority of our local students has already registered.

“Like most community colleges in and outside the state of California, SBCC is actively pursuing international students to increase the diversity of our student population,” Galvan said. “We have international students from 72 different countries.” Many live in what some describe as an Isla Vista-like ghetto of student apartments on the lower Westside near SBCC, coexisting with a Latino family neighborhood.

NOT SPLITTING: “Barney, you are going to love this one!” writes attorney Barry Cappello. “Now two different persons have carefully come up to me to gently ask if the rumor is true that my wife and I are getting a divorce. Of course it is false, I say. How did you hear it? Always they say it was from some other party. So one of my senior staffers has now surmised that the rumor must be circulating from your column and its repeat of the Craig Smith column that ‘Barry [and] Wendy are splitting.’

“People who don’t know my wife’s name is Lori, and who just read headlines, and not the story, have surmised incorrectly that a divorce/marriage style is occurring. I would appreciate if The Independent can squelch the rumor that there is anything amiss with my marriage.”

(The original item dealt with unconfirmed reports that Cappello is no longer representing News-Press owner Wendy McCaw. As to the Cappello-Wendy legal deal, Barry repeats: “No comment.”)

NO STINKING BALLOTS: Voting is easy. Figuring out who, or what, to vote for is the hard part. Campaign lies and half-truths clash like drunks flaying away in a bar. Maybe that’s why Meg Whitman, billionaire GOP candidate for governor, never bothered to register to vote until 2002. For Meg’s benefit, I have decided to demonstrate that voting can be accomplished quickly and efficiently, without much time lost from earning one’s billions. In fact, it can be done during two baseball playoff commercials, as I proved the other night.

The San Francisco Giants were taking on the Philadelphia Phillies. I grabbed my ballot material and waited for the first commercial. I lasted about two minutes and a half. It’s a long ballot, and when play resumed, I was only half-finished.

The propositions slowed me down. When the next commercial flashed on, I picked up my pen, finished voting, and sealed the envelope before the first pitch. Total time spent voting: five minutes. Meg, take note, or take Civics 101.

EMPTY BOWLS: Twenty-five restaurants will be making soup for the annual Empty Bowls benefit November 7 at the Rockwood Woman’s Club. It benefits the Foodbank. Tickets are $25, and it always sells out. Call 585-5244 for info.

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Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns throughout the week and a print column on Thursdays.

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