By: C. Harold Pierce
Winter classes will be offered for the first time in four years.
The Rancho Santiago Community College District Board of Trustees voted unanimously Sept. 23 to resume offering four-week classes in January, delaying the start of spring semester by two weeks.
“This is a great opportunity to offer more classes to our students to help them progress forward with their goals,” said Chancellor Raul Rodriguez.
Because of the economic downturn and budget shortfalls, intersession was suspended in 2009. This delayed transfer times and forced students to take more units each term. The district has been pressured to cut courses as waitlists ballooned.
Students anticipate benefitting from the new schedule.
“This is something that I wasn’t sure was going to happen, but I’m really glad that we have it. I’m probably going to take a class. I’d really rather not go over 18 units this spring,” Student Trustee Luis Correa said.
In the past, general education courses dominated the abbreviated mid-year session, but the college will take into account other course offerings with stacked waitlists, college President Erlinda Martinez said.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Oct. 10 allowing community colleges to charge unsubsidized rates for high demand intersession and summer courses, at about $200 per unit.
AB 955 creates a pilot program involving six colleges that does not include Santa Ana College.
Winter intersession classes, even those in high demand, will still cost $46 a unit at SAC.
But there are other, more pragmatic, reasons for offering intersession.
The state funds for colleges are based on the enrollment of full-time equivalency students. Intersession would boost that number and increase the district’s odds of receiving a higher sum from the state, said Peter Hardash, vice chancellor of business operations and fiscal services.
“It’s almost like a poker game. There’s strategy behind it, and you’re betting, but you’re not betting big,” Hardash said.
But faculty and staff members think the decision was not made soon enough.
“We want to offer as many classes as we possibly can so we can reach as many students as possible, but we didn’t think it was going to happen at the last minute,” said Victoria Williams, a representative of the California School Employees Association.
The trustees acknowledge the abrupt change of plans, but said the positive move serves a greater good.
“I do apologize for the inconvenience, but I think there’s a willingness and want to take up this opportunity,” said Arianna Barrios, president of the Board of Trustees.