Enrollment down

DROPPED: A downward enrollment trend hit the state’s community colleges. Officials blame the struggling economy as well as the inability of the legislature to pass the budget.

Santa Ana College enrollment dropped by more than 1,000 students this semester.

“The economy has definitely caused problems with students attending classes due to cost,” said Normåan Fujimoto, vice president of academic affairs.

The decline in registered students was also the result of a shortage of available classes, difficulty
in finding jobs to pay for tuition, and the high cost of textbooks.

While community college tuition in California is relatively inexpensive at $26 a unit, students still need to pay for books and other class-related materials. Students taking between 12 to 15 units to pay $300 to $500 for textbooks a semester.

Many community colleges in Orange County have also seen a decrease in enrollment.

At Santiago Canyon College about 300 fewer students enrolled this semester. Golden West dropped by more than 1,000 students, and Coastline Community College had about 4,000 fewer students this semester.

From summer to spring, SAC met its FTES projections. “The full time equivalent students are where they’re supposed to be,” said Peter Hardash, vice chancellor of business operations and fiscal services.

The FTE formula is based on those students taking 12 units or more. The state provides funds for each community college depending on how many FTE students are enrolled. The legislature has not yet passed California’s 2010-2011 budget. One consequence is that Cal Grants have not been released to eligible students.

“The less people there are, the less diversity, the less classes offered. Students have to go to another campus,” SAC student Mario Duenas said.

In the previous budget for 2009-2010, California legislators cut funding for higher education by 20 percent. Many part-time faculty were laid off and courses and programs were cut.

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“Students will have trouble finishing their certificates and degrees in a minimal amount of time due to the difficulty in obtaining classes,” Fujimoto said.

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