Compromise Rejected : L.A. Colleges to Enforce Enrollment Boundaries

Times Staff Writer

A top official with the Los Angeles Community College District has rejected a compromise proposal by Glendale Community College on restricting enrollment boundaries, further indicating that Glendale College may suffer a sharp loss in students and a significant cut in state funding.

Glendale College could lose nearly one-fourth of its students and more than $2 million in the next two years because of the Los Angeles district's intention to enforce the state's free-flow law, which prevents residents from enrolling in community colleges outside their district limits.

30% Enrollment Drop

The decision by Los Angeles officials to begin enforcing the law is the result of a 30% drop in enrollment in the nine-campus district in the last three years. Meanwhile, enrollment at Glendale College has remained steady at about 11,000 students.

Last month the Glendale Community College Board of Trustees offered a compromise proposal that would force about 1,300 students to attend classes in the Los Angeles district but allow about 1,400 residents of nearby Glassell Park, Highland Park and Eagle Rock to continue attending school in Glendale.

But Kenneth Washington, vice chancellor of educational services for the Los Angeles district, said this week that the Glendale proposal is "unacceptable."

"I can understand their situation, but we have to stand firm on this issue," Washington said. "This issue is hard for both of our districts, but for us it's a matter of survival."

Enrollment within the Los Angeles district peaked in 1982 at 136,000. At that time district officials stopped enforcing the free-flow law. Since then, enrollment has dipped below 100,000 and has led to a significant reduction in state funding. State funding is based on average daily attendance.

Glendale College officials, although understanding the position of the Los Angeles district, have argued that, because of an interdistrict agreement, residents of Glassell Park, Highland Park and Eagle rock have been allowed to enroll at Glendale College since 1927.

Service Defended

"We don't like being at odds with our sister districts, but at the same time it would be wrong for us to abandon service to three generations of students," Glendale College President Rex Craig said after Tuesday's college trustee meeting.

Craig said school officials will continue to allow residents of the three Northeast Los Angeles areas to enroll at Glendale College until a decision is made on two bills in the Legislature that support the free flow of students between college districts.

"If we can't come to an agreement with Los Angeles, we feel we'll have to wait for a decision from Sacramento," Craig said.

Officials at El Camino Community College and Cerritos Community College have worked out compromises with Los Angeles officials regarding enrollment boundaries, but the agreements do not involve as many students as does the one sought by Glendale College, Washington of the Los Angeles district said.

The two recently introduced bills that seek to overturn the free-flow law are A.B. 267, sponsored by Assemblywoman Marian La Follette (R-Northridge) and Assemblyman Bill Leonard (R-Redlands), and Senate Bill 225, sponsored by Sen. Robert G. Beverly (R-Manhattan Beach).

Supporters of the legislation argue that students should have the freedom to choose what community college they wish to attend and that the free flow of students between districts increases competition between schools, stimulating colleges to improve their educational services.

Critics contend, if free flow is allowed, intercity and small community college districts would face severe enrollment drops, which could lead to employee layoffs and cuts in school programs. Opponents also argue that racial imbalance would occur if students were allowed to choose any community college they want.

Although Los Angeles officials have taken a firm stand on the free-flow issue, some city residents would still be able to attend community colleges outside the district.

For example, students already enrolled in suburban community colleges, such as Glendale, would be allowed to remain at the school. And students wanting classes not offered within the Los Angeles district would be allowed to enroll at suburban schools. Also, students taking fewer than six units would be allowed to enroll outside the Los Angeles district.

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