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Back To School : MISSION VIEJO : College District’s Enrollment Rises

First-day student enrollment in the Saddleback Community College District increased by 12% over that of last fall, but district officials said an estimated 6,000 students had to be turned away because state funding did not match the enrollment increase.

Enrollment at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, where classes started last week, was 21,093, an 11% increase over last fall, while Irvine Valley College saw a 17% rise with 8,656 students.

District officials said they were forced to cut programs and classes because state funding did not match the increase in students.

“We are given a growth cap of 4.03% (for the district), which means the state will fund a set amount for the students at the school, plus a growth of 4.03 (percent). If the increase continues, there are students we will be educating and not getting funding for,” said district spokeswoman Diane Riopka.

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District officials have made cuts in classes for the fall and may cut more in upcoming spring and summer sessions, Riopka said.

Last year, a 7% increase in enrollment cost the district $2.4 million because the state did not provide more funds for the additional students, Riopka said. As a result, classes and programs were cut to limit the number of students enrolling, including the entire first summer session was at Irvine Valley.

Despite the financial drawbacks, Riopka said climbing enrollments signal increased support from the community, where the district has been offering programs for 21 years.

“Of course, it’s an indication of the success of our institution--that we’re growing and that our residents are taking advantage of the educational opportunities available,” she said.

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Riopka also attributed increased fees at the University of California and California State University systems, combined with booming growth in South County, for the enrollment increase. She noted that recessions often boost enrollments at community colleges, which are less expensive than larger schools.


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