"I've been in school forever," said the 24-year-old graphic design major from Compton.
At El Camino, she struggled to get classes, typically landing a spot in only two or three. The art department at El Camino began losing professors and Garcia decided she needed a change.
Pasadena City College, with a respected arts program, was appealing, so she moved to Los Angeles to be closer to school.
Still, she was unable to enroll in more advanced art classes, in part because they also were full.
She emailed every instructor in the art department, searching for a class. One responded. She told Garcia she would help her get the last seat in a Web design class. By then, the class was full, but a few days later, someone dropped the course and Garcia was in.
"All that for just one class," she said, shaking her head.
The crowding has rippled through the school, causing long waits to see academic counselors — an important issue for many community college students who need advice on navigating the sometimes complex requirements to transfer to Cal State, UC or a private university.
At El Camino, Garcia said, the lines to see counselors were hours long. She'd make appointments weeks in advance, never seeing the same advisor twice, she said.
"I tried to do it on my own but I was only able to get so far," she said. "Students are isolated because the counselors have such an overwhelming load."
Garcia said all the delays have made her life harder. She had a full-time job at Ikea, but cut back her hours, hoping the extra time would allow her to power through Pasadena City College.
Over the years, she has shifted her goals from a four-year degree, to a community college associate's degree, and now to a certificate, which requires fewer credits.
That decision could cost her in the long run.
A study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor showed that in 2009, the median weekly earnings of workers with bachelor's degrees was about $1,137 — about a third more than workers with an associate's degree.
Jeffrey MacGillivray attended three community colleges in search of classes and direction.
He started at Los Angeles Harbor College, then tried West Los Angeles College, where he failed to get into any classes, and now he is at El Camino.
This fall, he managed to find a seat in only one academic class — philosophy. He later added a boxing class to fill some mornings.
"I was thinking I can just go to community college, do my two years and transfer," said the 20-year-old Redondo Beach resident. "I had no idea I'd probably end up at El Camino for four years."
MacGillivray has focused much of his attention on trying to play football and run track in community college in hopes of getting a scholarship to a four-year school.
But he has never been able to get enough classes — at least 12 units each semester — to qualify for a team. At El Camino this semester, 98% of class sections are filled to capacity.
"It's really frustrating, having this goal of running track at a university and graduating with a degree," he said. "Junior college is being a bigger obstacle than it should be."
Next semester, MacGillivray may be changing schools again. He was offered a chance to join the Long Beach City College track team — with the possibility that the school could help him get the classes he needs.
For all the trouble, MacGillivray said there is a bright side to his academic wanderings. After two years, he's figured out what he wants to major in — media arts.
And to his surprise, he has discovered that he actually enjoys philosophy.
On a recent afternoon, he listened intently as his professor lectured on ethical relativism — the belief that morality is linked to the social norms of one's culture.
"She's so deep," MacGillivray said of his professor. "I only got one class, so it's pretty cool it was that one."