Volume 45, Number 1 - November/December 2009
Budget cuts continue to take their toll on California’s community colleges and no one sees the impact more directly than the faculty that serves the 2.9 million students attending classes.
At a time when the community college budget has been cut by $840 million, enrollment is skyrocketing on campuses throughout the state. Qualified students who were unable to obtain admission to the state’s four-year public colleges are joining greater numbers of high school graduates, and unemployed job seekers enrolling in community college classes.
Figures recently released by the Chancellor’s Office revealed a 4.9 percent — or 135,000 student — increase in enrollment in the 2008-09 school year with an even higher number expected for the 2009-10 year. But those figures fail to depict the human toll that budget cuts are taking.
Huge waiting lists
“It’s heart-breaking. I see students who are desperate to get into my remedial English classes,” said Linda Borla, an English teacher at Cypress College and CCA board member. Borla’s writing classes are limited to 25 students, but the waiting lists are huge. “I stopped counting at 100. They are standing outside the doors, dozens of them, waiting to add the class.”
The same is true for other departments, Borla said. The nursing program, for example, had over 900 students on the waiting list for 50 seats.
They are standing outside the doors, dozens of them, waiting to add the class.
“My students are frustrated because they have a harder time getting classes and are having to pay higher prices for books,” said John Sullivan, CCA Board member and a part-time English instructor at Riverside City College. “Their fees have gone from $20 to $26 per unit and they are having to fight for the classes they need. All this is discouraging them.”
Although Sullivan remains employed, faculty job loss has fallen heavily on part-time instructors this year. Instead of receiving lay-off notices, an estimated 10,000 contingent faculty received “invisible pink slips” as a result of having their classes eliminated.
“Full-time faculty have reason to be concerned about their jobs because the part-time faculty that had shielded them from lay-offs is being systematically eliminated. Those ‘invisible pink slips’ are going to become visible soon,” Sullivan warned.
Fewer course offerings
The Chancellor’s Office also reported that students are facing fewer course offerings, longer waiting lists, larger class sizes and higher fees. It was further reported that the $840 million in cuts has forced campuses to reduce course offerings by as much as 20 percent. Among them:
Long Beach City College reduced its course offerings by 12 percent in the fall of 2009-10 compared to same period last year.
San Diego Community College District reduced its course offerings by 600 classes this fall. Classes are nearly filled to capacity and students are on long waiting lists. The district turned away about 18,000 students and advised them to register early for the spring semester.
Los Rios Community College District in Sacramento reported preliminary fall enrollment growth of 5,000 students compared to the same period last year. Course offerings will be reduced by four percent in the 2009-10 academic year.
Other colleges, like San Joaquin Delta College have taken a different approach. There, officials announced recently that entire programs like non-credit recreation programs for seniors will be eliminated in order to preserve core pre-transfer and job-training programs.
Faculty also worry about maintaining the high quality of their programs. CCA’s Ethnic/Racial Minority Board member Phyllis Hall worries about continuing to provide high-quality counseling services to her EOPS (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services) students at Long Beach City College. She is also seeing an influx of students yet no positions have been added to serve them.
“EOPS is a retention program and our aim is to give these students more intervention so they will stay in school. We’re bracing ourselves and just trying to do exceptional work in less than exceptional circumstances,” Hall said.
Although stories of the budget’s impact are now coming in, the total impact of the cuts won’t be known for awhile.
However, CCA President Ron Norton Reel noted, What we do know is that it will harm students, part-time faculty members, and our full-time faculty members who have really never faced this threat before during most of their professional lives.”