Enrollment on the Upturn at 2 Local Community Colleges

Times Staff Writers

Bucking a three-year statewide enrollment decline, registration for the spring semester is up at Long Beach City College and gloomy predictions of faculty layoffs and fewer classes are being revised.

Signs also are good after early registration at Compton Community College, where a 23% fall enrollment drop had administrators wondering about the small campus' survival. By Thursday, the third day of a two-week registration period, 1,300 students had enrolled, some 400 more than at the same point a year ago.

But for the two other area community colleges, the news is less heartening. Rio Hondo in Whittier is projecting a 10% decline in students compared to last spring, while Cerritos College had registered 17,937 students after 1 1/2 weeks of class, a drop of 13.5%.

No Reductions Planned

Officials at the Rio Hondo and Cerritos colleges, however, are not at this point planning reductions in staff or curriculum.

"The students (at Long Beach City College) are indeed coming back," said Arlyss Burkett, director of public affairs, "and they're taking more classes than before. It doesn't look like we'll have to cut back in classes or faculty."

Instruction began at the Long Beach campus two weeks ago, and by Monday, 21,488 students had enrolled--an increase of 1.8% from the same period last spring, said Burkett.

Spokesmen for the Long Beach and Compton colleges say extensive recruitment efforts have led to the apparent turnaround. Long Beach has spent more than $100,000 on advertising since last summer, said Burkett. Compton has used many of its staff members as recruiters, while offering classes at odd hours and on weekends, said spokesman Charles Cropsey.

Enrollment at California's 106 two-year colleges has fallen each year since 1981, declining 23% in those three years, said Assistant Chancellor Joseph Keating. A 5.5% system-wide decline is forecast for this school year after an 8% drop in the fall, but statewide figures for spring will not be available until next month, he said.

Los Angeles' nine community colleges, however, have reported a 25% loss of students for spring, and six of seven Orange County junior colleges have from 3% to 11% fewer students than a year ago.

Enrollments are important because community colleges get about three-fourths of their funding from the state, which bases payments largely on average daily attendance of students. Funding for next fall is based on student attendance this school year.

In a one-time-only arrangement, state funding for this school year has been based on the higher enrollments of two years ago, not on those of last year, when attendance dropped by 8% statewide after a $50 tuition fee was imposed on full-time students,

In that way, this year has become a kind of grace period in which colleges tried to recover from the losses of 1983-84.

In Long Beach, Burkett said that recovery is two-thirds complete. "We were down about 15% last year and we have recouped about 10% of that," she said.

In addition, short-term courses offered throughout the semester and an early summer-school session will add to attendance totals for this school year, she said.

An 8.5% funding increase for community colleges in the governor's proposed 1985-86 budget also would help keep services at current levels, said Burkett.

"What really will probably hurt us most is that we won't have the money for new lab equipment and books and maintenance of buildings," she said.

Direct-Mail Campaign

Burkett credited the Long Beach recovery to a direct-mail campaign in which flyers and class schedules were sent to every home in its district, which includes Lakewood. Newspaper advertisements, radio promotions and posters on city buses also seemed to lure students, she said.

Though recruitment efforts in Compton also seem to be boosting enrollment, attendance apparently will fall short of what is needed to maintain current programs, said Acting President Jean Larson.

The college now receives money for the 4,500 students it had in 1982-83. Enrollment for this spring, however, is projected at 3,800 after an enrollment of 3,465 last fall.

Compton has been working since fall on contingency plans should it not reach the 1982 attendance level, and no layoffs of its 190 full-time employees are anticipated, said Larson.

Will Absorb Funding Loss

The anticipated 15% to 20% loss in funding will be absorbed by not rehiring some of the school's 120 part-time instructors and by eliminating classes that are not in great demand, such as journalism, social science, and the fine arts, said Larson.

Instructors from those subject areas are being retrained to teach high-demand basic skills classes in English and math, she said.

Money also is being saved by eliminating positions when employees retire or resign, said Larson. Six full-time jobs were lost to attrition last fall and a number of retirements are expected this year, she said.

With the difficult times, employees will probably be asked next fall to work for a third straight year without a pay raise, Larson said.

Enrollment continued to decline at Rio Hondo and Cerritos community colleges, with Cerritos showing the sharpest drop for the spring semester: 13.5% fewer students than the previous spring.

10% Drop Expected

With its registration still open, Rio Hondo anticipated about a 10% drop-off. Classes are scheduled to start Feb. 4.

In spite of the huge decline, no college officials said the schools were in a fiscal emergency. No staff or class reductions were predicted for this semester.

However, Herbert Sussman, president of Rio Hondo, said, "We're really in crisis management. We live from day to day, from year to year."

Sussman predicted that "we'll make it this year."

Last school year, Rio Hondo had 7,429 full-time students. This year, Sussman was projecting about a 10% decline in spite of the fact the college had made an extra effort to recruit students.

For the first time in its 24-year history, the college had spent several thousand dollars on recruitment, Sussman said. The college bought newspaper advertisements and produced brochures to recruit potential students, Sussman said.

"We made it easy for them. We accepted (credit cards) for the first time. It hasn't helped," he said.

Cerritos College had its peak enrollment in 1982 when 24,211 students signed up for classes. The college had anticipated about 21,000 students last fall but enrolled only 18,498.

The college had hoped to enroll more than 19,000 this spring but received only 17,937.

The enrollment decline was blamed on a variety of factors.

Cerritos College President Dr. Wilford Michael said these included an improved economy and fewer high school graduates, the result of declining elementary and secondary enrollment.

"When there are jobs available, people are interested in working rather than coming to school," Michael said.

He believes the newly imposed $50 fee for a full load of courses only had a slight impact.

"Some few students might not be able to afford the fee but they could qualify for financial aid," Michael said.

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