Topics / EDUCATION : Colleges Feel Squeeze of Funding Cutbacks : Pasadena campus has canceled nearly 10% of class sections. Mt. SAC has avoided cutting classes, but only by dipping into reserves.

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With community colleges across California facing cuts in state funding, some students are discovering that the hardest part of a class may be just getting in.

Pasadena City College has had to eliminate 225 class sections, nearly 10%, over four years and rely heavily on budget reserves to offset government funding reductions and avoid budget deficits.

Since many of these classes are required for graduation, the nearly 22,000 students at PCC face long registration lines semester after semester.

Adrianna Rosales' nutrition class, which she needs for her degree in nursing, was filled before she could enroll. "I'll try again next semester," she said. "It happens all the time."

Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut has so far managed to maintain all its classes and keep a balanced budget despite state cuts, but this has meant taking $10 million from its reserve since 1991 to do so.

"We've already figured out that we're going to need another $6 million for 1995-96," said Jane Faulkner, assistant to William Feddersen, Mt. SAC president. "That's going to completely deplete our reserve."

Mt. SAC administrators hope that other avenues, such as leaving vacant positions unfilled and soliciting donations from the private sector, will help compensate for limited state funds. But classes are always in jeopardy, said Joseph Zagorski, executive vice president of instruction.

Community colleges design their budgets around projected returns from local property taxes, as well as from general state allocations, student enrollment fees and federal funds. Since 1991, state officials have overestimated property tax returns, sending community colleges into a spin.

For example, PCC plans its budget each July based on figures from the state. In recent years, officials were informed the next February that the amounts were incorrect. In 1993-94, school officials received nearly $5.5 million less than they had expected.

PCC planners are expecting $25 million for 1994-95 but will not know the actual amounts for several months.

"Once you get to February, you're halfway through spending what you thought you had," said Joyce Black, dean of instruction at PCC. "We'll be planning our budget and they'll still be giving us hits from last year."

College officials are waiting anxiously to see whether Gov. Pete Wilson will safeguard their institutions from the state's allocation procedures. He has yet to take action on a bill that the Legislature passed earlier this month that would require the state to take responsibility for discrepancies between projected and actual funding levels. Grades kindergarten through 12 currently have this type of protection.

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