3 Valley Colleges : Enrollment Falls Again at 2-Year Schools

Times Staff Writer

Enrollment at the three San Fernando Valley community colleges declined this spring for the sixth consecutive semester, the Los Angeles Community College District staff reported to the Board of Trustees Wednesday.

Pierce College in Woodland Hills had an enrollment of 16,795, a 12% decline from the spring semester a year ago; Valley College in Van Nuys had an enrollment of 15,191, a decline of 18%, and Mission College, which holds classes in San Fernando and other locations in the northeast Valley, had an enrollment of 3,207, a 21% decline.

Move to Reverse Trend

Administrators at the two-year colleges gave differing explanations for the continuing decline in enrollment, but said they are readying programs to try to reverse the trend.

In the nine-college system, there were 19,000 fewer students this spring than in the spring semester a year ago. Enrollment in the two-year colleges was about 90,000.

Southwest College in Los Angeles reported the district's largest decline, with 33% fewer students this semester. Mission College had the fourth-largest decline.

"We are still feeling the impact of the $50 tuition fee which was imposed for the first time this fall," district spokesman Norm Schneider said.

Valley community college administrators gave other reasons for the continuing drop in the number of students at their campuses.

Mission College President Lowell Erickson said a new school schedule this year confused many returning students. Erickson has suggested that the district re-examine its policy of starting the fall semester in August and the spring semester the week after New Year's.

Heavy Losses in Fall

"Our real enrollment losses were in the fall. Right now we are holding steady and hopefully we have bottomed out," Erickson said.

Mary Lee, president of Valley College, said her school's largest enrollment losses came from the ranks of continuing students and those who took six units of course work. The six-unit level was the starting point for the $50 fee.

"The number of students who took a full load, that is 12 units, remained steady, and the number of students who took three units held up. It seems that those who were taking six units felt that it just wasn't worth it to spend $50," Lee said.

Pierce College's proximity to Warner Center and other fast-developing business and light industrial developments is one reason the school has lost enrollment, according to Philip Stein, dean of student and administrative services.

"The employment picture is quite good, so we don't have the students who take classes in order to get a job or to train for a new job," Stein said.

The $50 fee has not affected Pierce students, who are often more affluent than students at the other two-year schools, he said.

Promoting Programs

The college administrators, along with the California Postsecondary Education Commission, the organization that monitors all publicly funded institutions of higher learning, have started promoting programs to stop the enrollment decline.

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