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California community colleges plan to boost summer programs

Buoyed by an infusion of new state funds, many California community colleges will offer more classes this summer after years of cutbacks, according to a new survey released Thursday.

In the informal survey of the state’s 112 community colleges, 67% of respondents said they would expand course offerings, 23% said they would offer about the same number of classes as last year and 10% said they planned to decrease offerings. The survey was conducted by the office of statewide Chancellor Brice W. Harris. Seventy colleges responded.

Summer school is traditionally a time for students to speed progress toward a degree or transfer  to a four-year university. But budget reductions in the last five years have forced many public colleges to slash summer classes to preserve more fall and spring programs.

Community colleges have been especially hard hit, with many campuses eliminating summer programs altogether.  Last year, according to the chancellor’s office,  summer enrollment and course offerings had plummeted to their lowest level in 15 years.

In November, voters approved Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s measure to temporarily increase state sales tax and income tax on the wealthy to fund education. Community colleges were to receive about $210 million in additional funding in 2012-13.

"The voters of California made a wise investment in public higher education at the polls last year, and we are working diligently to satisfy pent-up demand from students who are eager to learn,” Harris said in a statement. “This is good news for students and good news for our economy because California needs more college-educated workers.’’

He cautioned, however, that it would take years to fully recover from $1.5 billion in cuts that resulted in 600,000 students being turned away.

Still, many campuses are ready to start filling classroom seats. At Los Angeles Pierce College, for example, summer offerings are set to increase 263% -- from about 50 classes limited to English and math last year to 200 classes across the curriculum beginning June 17.

Most of the classes are already full with about 6,000 students expected to enroll,  said Anna Davies, vice president of academic affairs.

“My hope is it’s going to allow those students who need just one or two classes to finish without staying for another full semester,” Davies said. “And the summer session may be the first opportunity for first-time high school graduates to enroll for classes, so it’s going to help on both ends of the pipeline.”

Students said they were pleased that their push for Prop. 30 in November is leading to increased access.

“Summer and winter intersession are being slowly but surely restored to functional levels where students can take those classes they need,” said Rich Copenhagen, 22, a College of Alameda student who is president of the statewide Student Senate for California Community Colleges. “This will really help support students getting back on track to transfer in a timely fashion and be able to achieve their educational goals in a timely manner.”

 

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carla.rivera@latimes.com

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