Sahar Abushaban, a community college alumna with a long career of public-education budgeting, is the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District’s new associate vice chancellor of district business services charged with overseeing the district’s fiscal operations and budgeting.
Hired by the district as a financial analyst in 2006 and serving as interim director of district business services for the past two years, Abushaban now also oversees categorical programs, such as CalWORKS and Veterans Education.
Abushaban holds the district’s financial reins during one of the most fiscally challenging times ever as it enters its fourth year of severe state budget reductions
“This budget crisis is the worst I’ve seen,” Abushaban said.
The $179 million budget approved by the college district governing board in September includes $6.3 million in anticipated cuts from the state, forcing the district to reduce its course offerings and turn away about 2,300 students.
Chancellor Cindy L. Miles said the district budget, while underfunded, is in capable hands with Abushaban keeping tally.
“We are so fortunate to have someone with such a keen understanding of budget complexities,” Miles said. “She knows the numbers up and down, backwards and forwards.”
To say Abushaban has a lot on her platter is a mild understatement. She consults regularly with administrators at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges over budget strategies. She has seen across the district how the cutbacks have left a bare-bones staff with expanding workloads and responsibilities in the wake of unfilled job vacancies and staff consolidations.
Still, Abushaban is ever the optimist.
“I’m really looking forward to this position,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of challenges ahead, but our district and governing board have stuck to tight fiscal oversight to get us through these tough times.”
When Abushaban looks back over the years, she can scarcely believe the territory she’s covered. A Palestinian by birth who emigrated from Egypt to the United States in 1980 as a high school senior, Abushaban enrolled in classes at San Diego’s Mesa College just five months after arriving with her parents and siblings from Cairo.
As she began her studies, she kept in mind that her father had left a secure life as an engineer in Egypt to ensure his children a western education. She signed up for an accounting class with a vague notion of wanting to learn about business. Suddenly, things began to click in place.
“I just loved it,” Abushaban said.
After earning a bachelor of science in business administration from San Diego State University, she began what has so far been a 20-year career in budget and financial analyses that has taken her from the private sector to public-sector jobs with nearly all of the state’s educational systems – high school, community college, and the University of California. Abushaban worked at the Grossmont Union High School District, Grossmont College and UC San Diego before she was hired at the college district.
A mother of two – a 17-year-old daughter, Rhonda, and 9-year-old son, Rami, -- Abushaban manages to squeeze in homework and studying as she works toward a master’s in accountancy from National University.
She lives with her children and her husband of 24 years, Sam Elsaad, in El Cajon. Her son, a math and science whiz in the fourth grade at Fuerte Elementary School, already has plans of obtaining a doctorate.
“He had to dissect a shark recently for school and he just loved it,” Abushaban said.
Rami seems to have found his calling, a lot like his mother when it comes to analyzing budget figures. A natural fit, some might say.
For more information about Cuyamaca and Grossmont colleges, go to www.gcccd.edu