Dr. Ryan Cornner

Superintendent and President of Glendale Community College Dr. Ryan Cornner Writes Bill to Assist Refugees from Artsakh and Elsewhere

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By Vic Gerami

GLENDALE, Calif. — Since his appointment in July 2022, Glendale Community College (GCC) President Ryan Cornner has been a staunch ally of the Armenian community. He wrote SB971, a measure that would make higher education more affordable for Artsakh Armenians and other low-income refugees by exempting them from paying the nonresident tuition fee. This California Senate Bill 971 was introduced by State Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank) on Thursday, January 25.

Cornner’s latest project is to support the Armenian-American community and its Armenian students, who comprise about a third of the institution’s student body.

Due to a growing number of regional conflicts worldwide, many individuals seek haven through immigration to the United States, establish residency in California, and get higher education. Ineligibility for financial aid can make the cost of college disproportionately higher and unaffordable.

SB 971 would exempt from the nonresident tuition fee a nonresident, low-income student who resides in a region impacted by war or other regional conflict and registers for lower division courses at a community college. The measure requires the governing boards of community colleges that use this exemption to adopt one uniform policy to determine a student’s residence classification, establish procedures for an appeal and review of the residence classification, and determine whether a student is low-income.

“Part of our mission is to build a sense of belonging within our community and serve all students by creating an educational environment where they can take the next steps toward the future,” said Dr. Ryan Cornner, superintendent and president of GCC. “Glendale has a history supporting recent immigrant communities. In turn, these populations have become cornerstones in our community. SB 971 will allow us to more effectively meet the needs of our community and ensure that we fulfill our mission,” he continued.

Glendale Community College

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A large number of Armenians were displaced from their homeland of Artsakh, the population of which was greater than 120,000, even before Azerbaijan’s complete ethnic cleansing of Artsakh last September. California is home to a large diaspora of Armenian people and will continue to see the immigration of individuals seeking safety. Similar displacements have been seen in Ukraine. The United Nations indicates that over six million individuals have sought refugee status.

With the global Armenian community under attack and conflicts in other parts of the world dominating society, non-Armenian allies are exceedingly essential and rare. Dr. Cornner’s first significant outreach to the Armenian community happened soon after he took office. He invited me to screen my documentary feature film about the Artsakh Genocide, Motherland, at GCC and paid for all associated expenses.

Last year, he supported a resolution supporting Artsakh and calling for a peaceful end to the blockade that GCC’s Board of Trustees passed. The GCC Trustee vote on the three-year MOU passed unanimously, a resolution supporting Artsakh and “unequivocally condemning the illegal and inhumane blockade enforced by Azerbaijan against Artsakh.”

In October 2023, GCC announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Yerevan State University (YSU). GCC’s agreement with the college in Armenia strengthens the ties between educational institutions, facilitates international collaboration, and promotes academic and cultural exchange opportunities for students and faculty.

Finally, Dr. Cornner has supported and facilitated GCC’s Study Abroad Program in Armenia. The two-week program’s last trip, led by Dr. Sevada Chamras, took place in June/July 2023 and offered a brief overview of Armenian culture, history, art, and society through field observation and research.

While educating non-Armenians about the struggles of our community has been a significant challenge, Dr. Cornner has been a friend to us, not just with words but with substantial, decisive actions, too. By supporting us, he has created an inclusive environment at GCC for Armenian students, staff, and faculty.

SB971 will undergo several steps in the CA legislation, which will take approximately nine months. Dr. Cornner has done his part, so we must show him our support now.

(Vic Gerami is an award-winning journalist and the editor and publisher of The Blunt Post, documentary filmmaker, and the founder of the Truth And Accountability League (TAAL), a 501©3 non-profit advocacy organization founded in 2020 that monitors and confronts bias, disinformation, propaganda, and slander of the Armenian people and culture at the media level, including social media, academics, intelligentsia, and public policy.)

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