Students at Cal State Northridge were burdened with long lines, class scheduling problems and intense heat on the first day of the fall semester Monday, but university administrators were beaming with good news--enrollment at the quake-wounded school jumped by more than 600 over this time last year.
The administrators, who organized special efforts to attract students after the January, 1994, earthquake, said their latest figures indicate an enrollment of 23,991, compared to 23,379 at this time last year, an increase of 612 with two weeks of enrollment to go.
“It’s terrific,” said Margaret A. Fieweger, the university’s associate vice president for the office of undergraduate studies. “It’s an exciting time.”
Final fall enrollment at the university last year was 24,310 students, a 10.9% drop from 27,282 students before the quake and the smallest student body in 24 years. The school suffered $350 million in quake damage, rendering many of its facilities unusable.
Fieweger said a university task force created last October concentrated on increasing the student count by encouraging students who applied to the Northridge campus to enroll there even if they had also been accepted by other colleges.
“It appears that we’ve done that,” she said. “It’s teamwork.”
Fieweger said the recruitment efforts included providing students who intended to register with priority status for the processing of their financial aid applications, sending them letters of encouragement from top administrators and even sometimes telephoning them at home.
The university also is determined to improve services to students once they are on campus by providing workshops for transfer students, more staff access for all students, additional loan information, alternate class options for students who have trouble enrolling in specific classes, and more access to the Internet, she said.
“We’re not just responding to the earthquake,” she said. “We’re creating the campus of the future.”
For many students, the enrollment figures were the least of their concerns. Precedence went to trying to find their classrooms, trying to enroll in classes they were closed out of, buying books, taking care of financial aid, obtaining photo identifications and grabbing some shade.
Pari Joundourian, 23, a senior psychology major, and Gaspar Garcia, 21, a business major in his third year, were among the many students standing at campus directories trying to figure out where their classes were.
“Everything’s all screwed up,” Joundourian said with a chuckle. “We’re giving everybody the wrong directions.
“I’m going to have an anxiety attack on campus and I just left my psychology class,” she said. “I want to go back to the beach. I’m not ready for school.”
While both Joundourian and Garcia said the college appeared to be recovering from the earthquake, they agreed there was room for further improvement.
Outside the Matador Bookstore Complex, both Marco Martinez, 25, and Everett Lamkin, 22, were upset at being unable to enroll in all their desired classes despite being seniors.
Martinez, who is majoring in political science, and Lamkin, a biology major, were convinced that younger students were being favored so that the university could generate larger numbers of new enrollments.
“They’re trying to make it more appealing so freshmen get priority,” Lamkin said. “We’ve been here before; people are trying to graduate. I’ve got to run around and beg teachers for classes.”
Martinez, who said he was an Army veteran, said he cannot receive his government funding unless he carries a full load of classes.
“I made the dean’s list last semester,” he said. “It’s just a mess. I think I should have gone to Long Beach or UCLA.”
College administrators said students with difficulties signing up for needed classes should notify administrators, who may be able to offer options. As for the availability of specific classes, the system is the same this year as it has always been, they said: Freshmen and graduating seniors receive priority over sophomores and juniors.
Although there has been a reduction in the number of classes offered in recent years, largely because of budget cuts, no classes were eliminated last year or this year, administrators said.
Blanca Perez, 17, a freshman majoring in child development, said she encountered some problems finding classes, but none were overwhelming.
“At least everybody’s friendly,” she said on her way across campus to yet another line.
Administrators said there are many information booths, directories and publications on campus designed to help students get to classes regardless of the continued use of trailers replacing quake-damaged classrooms. This year’s enrollment increase is a strong sign that the school’s problems--especially earthquake damage, decreasing class offerings and increasing student fees--are being addressed, they said.
“We’re hoping this is a sign that things are turning around,” said Carmen Ramos Chandler, a university spokeswoman.
“Part of the problem was that everyone thought this was the earthquake university.”