Pass / Fail

So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Students 'hope and pray' they get their classes as community colleges cut

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35847 full

Robert Dewitz, 22, is a fourth year student at El Camino College, a two-year public community college in Torrance.

He planned to transfer into a Cal State University school for fall 2011, but couldn't get into a physics course that would have given him his final credit. Then, after an application error and a missed deadline, he lost his chance to transfer out this fall.

In March, CSU officials announced plans to freeze the majority of spring 2013 enrollment. And so it goes.

"This is supposed to be a two-year college, Dewitz said, "and unfortunately it’s difficult for students to get out in three or four years sometimes, because they can’t get the courses they need."

This is the reality at many community colleges across the state. As budgets have been slashed and course sections cut, fewer students are able to get into classes they need to transfer out. And students have had to put off their education plans.

El Camino College has been hit with a nearly $10 million cut in state funding this past year. The school is looking at a $6.6 million shortfall for the 2012 budget year, and a potential cut of $7.3 million on top of that depending on what happens with the governor's tax initiative in November.

The college has been forced to cut more than 20 percent of its course section offerings, or roughly 1,100 since the 2008-9 school year.

And in 2014 there will be no winter session at the college according to current plans. Depending on what happens with the governor's initiative to raise taxes in November, this year's winter session may remain at risk, said El Camino Community College District trustee Ray Gen.

"We really regret having to do it," Gen said. "But when Sacramento doesn’t give us enough money to run the courses we can’t do anything else but cut."

Course sections, student services and teaching positions have been cut as the college has had to tighten its belt. Meanwhile tuition fees continue to rise and will go up from $36 to $46 this summer.

Dewitz said another 30 percent in counselor cuts will also take effect this summer. And already there are lines of 80 to 100 students outside counselors' doors at the start of semesters, he said.

Andy Bradford, a sixth-year part-time student, has seen the changes wrought by the budget crisis. He will be transfering to Cal State Los Angeles in the fall, but considers himself lucky in getting courses. During his time at El Camino he saw students develop new techniques to ensure they got into classes.

"I've seen classes fill up within minutes of the first registration deadline, because everyone goes onto the website, adds the classes to their shopping cart before the deadline, and as soon as the deadline goes, they hit the register button," Bradford said. "That's what I've done to get into classes. Others go into the first day and hope somebody else doesn't show up, or hopes somebody else drops the class.

"They just kind of hope and pray they get in."

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).

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