More classes, less waiting

For the first time in three years, Orange Coast College and Coastline Community College students returned to campus Monday morning to more classes and sharply reduced class wait-lists.

Fewer classes and lengthy wait-lists have been frustrating realities for Coast Community College District students since fall 2010, in large part because of budget cuts handed down from the state, said Richard Pagel, OCC's vice president of administrative services.

The district is able to open its doors to more students with the passage of Proposition 30, which guarantees additional funding to California's community college system through temporarily raised sales taxes and taxes on income above $250,000, Pagel said.

Preliminary numbers show that 1,408 more students are enrolled at OCC and 200 more class sections — the number of times a course is offered — are available this semester compared with fall 2012. OCC, which is located in Costa Mesa and is the largest community college in the district, began classes this morning with seats still available in some sections, Pagel said.

"We are very thankful for Proposition 30," Pagel said. "If it didn't pass, we would have been cutting classes even further."

OCC has hired 35 part-time faculty and three full-time faculty members this semester to keep up with the increase in students. The college is also planning to reinstate intersession, the winter semester between fall and spring, which was eliminated in fall 2009 because of budget cuts, Pagel said.

"It's important to have intersession and summer session to get students through OCC in two years," he said. "It enables students to move through the program faster."

Coastline, which has campuses in Newport Beach and other cities, also started the semester with more class sections than in fall 2012. The district also includes Golden West College in Huntington Beach. Enrollment and class offerings have increased there as well, said Martha Parham, director of public affairs for the district.

The lack of funding in recent years changed the culture of community colleges, which are designed to accommodate all students, said Parham.

"Community colleges are open-access institutions, and not having enough funding to offer the right amount of classes was in opposition to that culture," she said.

Mary Short, a 19-year-old art student at OCC, began her fall semester Monday morning with a full class schedule for the first time.

"This is the first semester I haven't had to wait-list all of my classes," Short said. "My first two semesters were frustrating. As much as I like OCC, I don't want to be stuck at a junior college forever."

Pagel said the college's goal is to reach an enrollment of more than 20,000 full-time students, which would secure additional funding from the state.

"I'm confident that we will reach that point before the tax increase expires in 2019," he said.

Shwedha Cru, a 28-year-old fashion merchandising student, is excited about the addition of courses this semester.

"I'm able to finish all of my core curriculum classes this semester and graduate by December," she said.

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