Jammed Road to Higher Education : City Colleges Face Record Enrollment
Ranida Tamjaroen was in a panic.
The child psychology major had tried unsuccessfully to register for classes at Cal State Long Beach, where she is a sophomore. As a last resort, she turned to Cypress College, where she waited for nearly three hours one day last week to enroll.
For the record:
12:00 AM, Aug. 19, 1991 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday August 19, 1991 Orange County Edition Metro Part B Page 2 Column 5 Metro Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Start of fall semester--In a chart accompanying a story Sunday about community colleges, the Times incorrectly listed the start date of the fall semester for Orange Coast College and Golden West College. Classes at both campuses begin today.
The Anaheim teen-ager is just one of the tens of thousands of students jamming the state’s community colleges and causing what appears to be a record enrollment surge for the fall semester, which begins Monday at many Orange County campuses.
The increased demand is seen as a direct result of the recession, state budget cuts and simultaneous fee increases and enrollment caps at both the University of California and California State University systems. Yet it comes at a time when most of the two-year colleges also are having to reduce classes, services and even staff due to reduced state funding.
“The pipeline is jammed; the orderly flow of students from high school to higher education isn’t happening,” said Ann Reed, vice chancellor for the 107-campus community college system.
In addition to the normal flow of students seeking two-year degrees, certificates or transferable general education credits, university students are adding to the crunch because many cannot get the classes they need at their home campuses.
“We haven’t got enough seats to serve them all. . . . Either they are having to go to two community colleges to get the classes they want, or they’re having to take fewer classes or different classes than they need. I’m afraid some of them are getting frustrated, giving up and going away.”
Final tallies will not be available until three weeks into the fall semester, but Reed said officials expect to see at least a 5% increase in the 1.5 million students served by community colleges last year despite a cut of an estimated 5,000 classes statewide. In Orange County, officials say enrollments could be as much as 10% higher than last year.
“There’s not a college in the county that even thinks we’re going to be able to meet the (student) demand,” said Donna Hatchett, spokeswoman for the North Orange County Community College District, which serves about 35,000 students at Cypress and Fullerton colleges.
At Cypress College, most classes are running an unprecedented 90% to 95% full even before the fall semester begins. Yet nearly each day last week, hundreds of desperate students waited for hours in lines that snaked around the admissions office. To accommodate the crowds, the registrar’s office was staying open until well past 11 p.m.
“We’re getting students coming to us from as far north as Ventura and as far south as San Diego trying to take classes here,” said Cypress College counselor Tom Nordee. “They can’t get the classes they need back home.”
David Woolridge had only come as far as Santa Ana. But the Cypress campus was the social service counselor’s third community college stop last week in a quest for courses to bolster his job options and perhaps earn himself a pay raise or a crack at a better job when the economy turns around.
“They didn’t have anything locally at Rancho (Santiago College) or Orange Coast (College),” the 43-year-old Santa Ana man said as he waited patiently in the registration line, his stereo headphones blaring Luther Vandross tunes to keep him company. “I was told there had been cutbacks.”
During economic downturns large numbers of people typically return to college as a hedge against the future. “The economy is in such bad shape right now, people are recognizing that they could be out of work and that they had better be prepared,” said Sherrill Amador, Cypress’ vice president for instruction.
But community college officials say many are flocking to their campuses this year because they cannot afford student fee hikes of 40% at UC campuses and 20% at Cal State campuses, increases that were imposed because of the state budget crisis.
Community college fees are also up 20%; they increased from $50 a semester to $60. But they remain sharply less than fees at four-year universities: Full-time Cal State Fullerton students, for example, will be paying $1,108 a year, up from $952 last year.
Jeanette Lind waited in line for more than three hours with her 10 1/2-month-old son, Zachary, in hopes of registering for four classes at Cypress rather than continue her education at Cal State Fullerton.
“I just made up my mind that it was cheaper to take my general ed classes here,” said Lind, 23, a part-time dental receptionist from La Mirada.
John Abiskaron, 18, of Seal Beach said he and the majority of his college-bound friends were opting for community college instead of four-year schools, but not because they didn’t have the grades to be accepted at four-year colleges.
“It’s cheaper and classes aren’t as hard,” explained Abiskaron, who had his fingers crossed that he would get the four classes of his choice.
For community college administrators, another worrisome domino effect is that students in the UC and CSU systems are unable to get all the courses they need due to budget cutbacks.
Hardest hit may well be the 20-campus state university system, which is getting $60 million less than it received from the state last year, and that is more than $400 million less than needed to keep up with anticipated costs of serving nearly 370,000 students. As a result, said spokeswomen Colleen Bentley-Adler, CSU campuses are furloughing instructors, cutting classes and increasing class sizes.
“At San Diego State, there were something like 1,100 or 1,200 students who got no classes during the first round of registration,” Bentley-Adler said.
Tamjaroen found herself in a similar fix at Cal State Long Beach. When it was her turn in July to register for her sophomore year, all the possible classes she needed were already full.
“You cannot get an English class at Cal State Long Beach. . . . I couldn’t even get a religious studies class, and no one wants to take those,” said the 18-year-old from Anaheim.
She had turned to Cypress College in a pinch last spring for a beginning English course she could not get at Cal State Long Beach. This fall, she will take all her classes at Cypress, but even there she must settle for second best.
“I only got one of my top four choices--American government,” Tamjaroen said. “I did get my alternates, and they are requirements (for a bachelor’s degree) too. But they’re just classes I wasn’t exactly eager to take right now.”
Tamjaroen said the lower cost of classes at Cypress is certainly a plus for her parents, who are paying for her schooling. But the young Thai woman would have preferred to attend Cal State Long Beach this fall.
“I feel cheated,” she said. “It’s better than having to take a whole semester off, but I would still like to try to get back to state college in the spring.”
Many of her friends are in the same predicament. She said three girlfriends who just graduated from high school in June were accepted at Cal State Long Beach but couldn’t get any classes, even though freshmen are supposed to get priority in registration at the college.
“So they’re going to start their freshman year at Long Beach City College and Cerritos College,” Tamjaroen said.
The competition for classes was creating problems for many continuing Cypress students, particularly those who failed to register early.
“I need three English classes because I hope to transfer to UC Irvine next January,” said a worried Melanie Molina, a 19-year-old from La Habra who waited in line last week because she had missed her scheduled registration date in late July.
Since English courses were among those most in demand, it appeared increasingly likely that Molina and others like her would have to petition to add the classes.
“This is just about the worst I’ve seen it in 17 years, except for the time right after Proposition 13 passed” in 1978, said Nordee, the counselor at Cypress. “Then we had students camping out overnight.”
Technically, community colleges cannot turn away people. In practice, students who can’t get the desired courses go elsewhere or do not attend college, say Reed and others.
At Golden West College in Huntington Beach, enrollment was up 9% over last year. But fall classes were cut about 10% to help balance the budget and cover increased labor and supply costs.
“We have students walking in the door and walking right back out again,” said John Breihan, Golden West’s dean of admissions and records.
At Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, enrollment was up almost 10% over last year. Early last week, more than half its courses were full with several days of registration left. Closed classes included most of the high-demand general education courses such as English, science and mathematics that are required for transfer to a four-year school.
Fullerton College has also been hit by an avalanche of students, including a spillover from financially troubled Cal State Fullerton, where more than 200 classes were eliminated in an effort to balance a $14-million shortfall.
Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana also expects to post a 10% increase in enrollment after its fall semester begins Aug. 26. But had the district received more funding to staff its newly expanded campus in Orange, even more students could be accommodated, district officials said.
In fast-growing southern Orange County, where classes also start Aug. 26, the trend is the same. Officials at Saddleback and Irvine Valley colleges expect a 7% to 10% increase in fall enrollment.
Because funding formulas allow for significant growth in the two South County colleges, neither should be seriously hurt by the state budget crisis. The rest of Orange County’s community colleges are not funded for such growth, however, even when they get it.
Cypress College is funded for an increase of only 1% in enrollment, for example, although it has grown at least 3% annually in recent years. This year, the increase will be about 8% to 10%, and many will be students taking far fewer courses than they would like.
No financial relief is expected next year, either, say Orange County community college officials.
“Everybody is bracing for that,” said Hatchett of the North Orange County district. “Next fall, I think students are going to find it even more difficult to get the classes they need.”
Times researcher April Jackson contributed to this report.
More Students to Find Fewer Classes COASTLINE COMMUNITY COLLEGE, 11460 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley. (714) 546-7600 Classes Begin: Sept. 9 Proposed Total Budget: Not available How Cuts Affect Students: Classes with low enrollments will be canceled. Enrollment for Fall, 1990: 16,291 Projected Percent Increase in Enrollment for Fall, 1991: None. Note: Maintaining waiting lists for closed classes, particularly general education courses; will add classes based on those waiting lists. GOLDEN WEST COLLEGE, 15744 Golden West Ave., Huntington Beach. (714) 892-7711 Classes Begin: Aug. 26 Proposed Total Budget: $30 million to $33 million. How Cuts Affect Students: Working with same budget as last year, but inflationary costs represent a cut. Reducing 10% of sections offered to students this fall. No staff positions have been reduced. Enrollment for Fall, 1990: 14,665 Projected Percent Increase in Enrollment for Fall, 1991: 9% Note: Turning away students; 40% of classes closed, with general education courses most heavily affected. ORANGE COAST COLLEGE, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. (714) 432-0202 Fall Semester Start Date: Sept. 9 Proposed Total Budget: $41 million How Cuts Affect Students: 90 classes were cut; OCC made most of its cuts several years ago when initially hit by budgetary constraints. Enrollment for Fall, 1990: 27,984 Projected Percent Increase in Enrollment, Fall, 1991: 3% to 5% Note: As of Aug. 14, 50% of the classes were closed, with general education courses most heavily affected. CYPRESS COLLEGE, 9200 Valley View St., Cypress. (714) 826-2220 Fall Semester Start Date: Aug. 19 Proposed Total Budget: $26.6 million, down 2% from last year (dollar cut was $495,763) How Cuts Affect Students: Summer class schedule slashed 25% to prevent cuts in fall semester offerings. Personnel hours reduced. Hiring frozen. Cutbacks in supplies and library book purchases. Enrollment for Fall, 1990: 13,900 as of Sept. 17, 1990 Projected Percent Increase in Enrollment for Fall, 1991: 9% to 10% Note: Average growth rate in previous years has been 3% to 5% FULLERTON COLLEGE, 321 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton. (714) 992-7000 Classes Begin: Aug. 19 Proposed Total Budget: $37 million, down 2% from last year (dollar cut was $742,000) How Cuts Affect Students: No staff cuts; cut support staff only (custodial, mail room) Enrollment for Fall, 1990: 21,000 Projected % Increase in Enrollment for Fall, 1991: Not available Note: Waiting list on classes; unable to open new classes; hired 12 additional full-time staff members to increase full-time staff. RANCHO SANTIAGO COLLEGE, Santa Ana Campus *, 17th and Bristol streets, Santa Ana. (714) 667-3000 Classes Begin: Aug. 26 Proposed Total Budget: $71 million How Cuts Affect Students: Classroom supplies and campus maintainance will be cut back. Enrollment for fall, 1990: 25,000 credit; 15,600 non-credit Projected Percent Increase in Enrollment for Fall, 1991: 10% Note: Opening large teaching facility on Orange campus but is unable to expand enough to meet the demand. IRVINE VALLEY COLLEGE, 5500 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine. (714) 559-9300 Classes Begin: Aug. 26 Proposed Total Budget: $13.6 million (up $1.5 million from last year) How Cuts Affect Students: No cuts that will affect students Enrollment for Fall, 1990: 8,500 Projected Percent Increase in Enrollment for Fall, 1991: 7% Note: Seventy percent of the general education courses were filled by mid-registration. SADDLEBACK COLLEGE, 28000 Marguerite Parkway, Mission Viejo. (714) 582-4500 Classes Begin: Aug. 26 Proposed Total Budget: $47.9 million How Cuts Affect Students: Not available Enrollment for Fall, 1990: 22,577 Projected Percent Increase in Enrollment for Fall, 1991: 8% to 9% Note: General education courses and transferable courses are filling quickly. * Includes satellite campuses at Garden Grove Center and Orange Campus. Sources: individual community colleges Researched by April Jackson / Los Angeles Times