The crush is on as GCC opens

Twenty anxious students crowded the back of Phillip Kazanjian's business law class Monday at Glendale Community College, waiting to add their names to the sign-in sheet.

The 39 desks in the room were already filled.

“If you are on the waiting list, you probably won't get in,” Kazanjian said, before moving on to the syllabus and attendance policy.

Some disappointed students quickly cleared out, but others remained, hoping that a spot would open.

“It is harder now than before,” said 21-year-old Yeprui Boyadzhyan, who was No. 10 on Kazanjian's 22-person waiting list. “[Previously] it was so easy. I would just go, add my classes, and I would automatically get in.”

GCC roared back to life this week after an extended break — the campus remained closed through January after officials canceled the six-week winter session as a cost-saving measure amid ongoing state budget cuts.

The start of a new semester is always hectic as students move in and out of classes. But with the per-student unit load higher than past semesters, and a reduction in the number of courses being offered during the length of the year, faculty members say they are facing unusually long student waiting lists.

Adjunct faculty member Chandani Kodikara's chemistry lecture and lab is full at 60 students, she said, but another 30 students arrived Monday hoping to get in.

“I had so many students who showed up who did not register for the class, which is kind of sad,” Kodikara said. “The lecture hall was kind of flooding with people.”

Jason Ahn described a professor who created a slide in her introductory PowerPoint presentation that advised students who were not already registered for her class that they could not stay.

“Two years ago, I could have gone into a class that was full, and the teacher would just add everybody who wanted to add the class, whether or not they are on the wait list,” the 20-year-old student said.

GCC is offering 1,724 classes this semester, similar to the 1,740 classes offered in spring 2011, said Mary Mirch, vice president of instructional services.

Fall semester offerings also remained steady.

Nevertheless, with the scaling-back of summer classes and the elimination of winter session, students have fewer chances to enroll in and complete the classes they need to transfer to a four-year college.

“I think students at this point are so desperate to get their classes because we didn't have winter classes,” Mirch said. “They are going to try anything. It is that anxiety level that everybody feels.”

In recent years, GCC has accommodated as many as 3,000 more students than it was compensated for by the state, Mirch said. But as the college eliminated more than $7 million in expenditures heading in the 2011-12 academic year, bringing its current annual operating budget to roughly $82.7 million, it was forced to also reduce its student head count. Enrollment currently stands at 15,185, she said.

Administrators and faculty said they are stretching the seams of their classrooms to serve as many students as possible.

“As long as I have chairs, I am accommodating them,” said accounting professor Christine Kloezeman.

College President/Supt. Dawn Lindsay said that faculty members have tried to squeeze in as many bodies as they can.

“Most are overfilling their classes, hoping to assist as many students as possible,” Lindsay said. “I spoke with one faculty member today who told me he allowed almost 30 additional students into his large lecture class because he didn't want to turn anyone away.”

Lindsay and Mirch commended faculty members for their efforts.

“I don't know if people realize the extra workload. Five students means 25 extra assignments,” Mirch said. “They work very hard to try and help the students. We understand they are trying to get someplace.”

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