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State Budget Worries Cast Smaller Shadow Over Dominguez Hills

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Like dozens of other students, Edmund Sella was waiting in a line Thursday to register for fall classes at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Sella, 59, passed the time reading a novel and talking from his wheelchair with his schoolmates.

It was a scene that could have been repeated at public colleges around the state. But, unlike their counterparts, Dominguez Hills students will have better luck in getting the classes they need or, for that matter, a parking space when school begins next Tuesday.

Administrators and students alike say the impact of state budget cuts in public higher education that have left larger Cal State campuses reeling, is much less evident at Dominguez Hills.

In fact, because of five consecutive semesters of enrollment increases--and a resulting influx of funding--the small Carson school has found itself in the welcome position of having to make only relatively small trims in its programs.

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The school laid off 30 temporary, part-time faculty members and cut its class list 6%, or by 121 sections, primarily courses with low enrollment, administrators said. At the same time, the university has added more than 40 full-time faculty members to accommodate enrollment growth.

Administration officials are projecting yet another enrollment record, easily surpassing the 9,900 students on campus last spring. (Another 3,000 students are registered in a statewide nursing program administered through the university.)

The school appears to be growing in popularity, with admissions up 12.5% from last year. That is partly because of transfer and freshman students who have been turned away from other schools, Dominguez Hills campus officials said. Exact enrollment figures will not be available for several weeks.

Freshman Jon Stevens of San Diego, who was registering for classes with his mother, Gaile, decided to attend Dominguez Hills partly because of threatened class cuts at the University of California, San Diego, where he had planned to attend.

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“He’s going to move up here so that he can get the classes he needs,” Gaile Stevens said.

Cal State Dominguez Hills President Robert Detweiler cautioned against being too optimistic about his school’s present fiscal situation.

“It’s pretty hard to say we’re in an enviable position when we had to cut . . . 10.5% from our budget,” he said. “Cutting $6.2 million is going to hurt you regardless. I don’t think anyone could say that they are lucky.”

This year’s budget is $51.8-million. Besides reducing the part-time faculty, the cuts have fallen largely on support services, such as maintenance and library purchases.

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Detweiler lauded the addition of the full-time faculty members--40% minorities and 40% women. At a university such as Dominguez Hills, where nonwhites are a majority, such diverse faculty representation is a priority, Detweiler said.

Most students braving the lines seemed satisfied with the university’s course efforts. Sella, who is working toward a bachelor’s degree in theater arts, said all four of the courses he needed were open. He doubted that those classes would fill up before he reached the front of the line, where computer registration took place.

“I don’t worry,” he said. “At my age . . . I’m just here to have fun.”

Lori Logan, an accounting major, also wasn’t worried. Because she is a senior, which gives her priority in registering, she said she has no problems finding the classes she needs.

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Keoki San Miguel, a computer science senior, said that, even if the classes he needs were officially closed on Thursday, he would probably have an easy time “crashing,” a tradition of students’ begging professors to enroll them in courses.

“It’s fairly easy to do here,” he said.

But even on a campus that appeared to be doing better than elsewhere in the sprawling Cal State system, not all students fared well. Typically, by the end of registration week, administrators said, some students are shut out of some classes they may want.

Roxanne Cabrera, an English sophomore, said three of the classes she hoped to enroll in were closed, leaving her to scramble for alternative courses.

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“It’s tougher this year,” she said, adding that many of the closed courses have long waiting lists.


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