Campus Enrollment Declines After Quake : Education: Community colleges report a 3.6% drop. Losses in the Valley are nearly two to three times higher.


The Los Angeles Community College District suffered a 3.6% enrollment decline this spring because of the Jan. 17 Northridge earthquake, with individual losses at two of its San Fernando Valley colleges nearly two to three times higher, district officials reported Wednesday.

Hardest hit among the district's nine campuses was Mission College in Sylmar, which has 10.1% fewer students than had been expected prior to the earthquake, researchers said in a report presented to the district board.

Next was Valley College in Van Nuys, with a 6% drop and Los Angeles Trade-Tech, with a 5.1% decline.

Enrollments in the 882-square-mile district had been expected to drop even without the earthquake, from about 106,000 students last spring to a projected 103,941 this spring. But the researchers estimated the quake alone caused an additional loss of 3,796 students, for a total enrollment of 100,145.

For Los Angeles and four other Southern California community college districts, the issue of trying to identify the earthquake's actual impact on their enrollments--as opposed to other factors--could become an important financial issue.

Community colleges in California get most of their funding from the state based on the numbers of students they enroll. But for this fiscal year, the state Assembly has passed and the Senate is due to consider urgency legislation to shelter the five districts from state funding cuts due to earthquake-related enrollment losses.

May Chen, the district's director of research and planning, said the enrollment loss could cost the Los Angeles district at least $6 million in funding if the legislation is not passed.

Even if it does, the legislation would not protect the district from enrollment losses in future years. "Usually it takes at least two to three years for the population to come back" after major disasters, Chen said before the meeting.

In addition to the Los Angeles college district, the others targeted in the measure are Antelope Valley, Santa Clarita, Santa Monica and Ventura.

Chen and her staff said in the report that Mission's projected enrollment was 6,264, compared to actual enrollment of 5,634. The two other San Fernando Valley colleges, Valley in Van Nuys and Pierce in Woodland Hills, suffered more physical damage, but Chen speculated that Mission's severe decline was due at least in part to the closure of a portion of the Simi Valley Freeway.

Valley, the campus with the district's largest enrollment this spring, had a projected 16,353 student population and actual enrollment of 15,372, for a 6% loss.

Trade-Tech, located near Downtown, had its 13,061 projected enrollment decline to 12,396 for a 5.1% loss.

District officials attributed the losses to a combination of factors, including general apprehension in the wake of the earthquake and student preoccupation with resulting problems in their families.

West L.A. College had a 4.7% drop, from 8,108 expected students to a 7,724 actual enrollment. Pierce, which suffered the most extensive physical damage among the nine campuses, saw only a 4.4% earthquake-related enrollment drop, from a projected 15,256 students to an actual 14,581.

L.A. City College, district researchers said, suffered a 2.7% decline from 15,393 projected students to 14,971 actual enrollment.

District officials estimated no earthquake-related losses at East L.A. College, with 15,183 students, and Harbor College, with 7,922 students.

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