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With Budgets Recovering, Community Colleges See Rising Enrollment as Course Cuts are Restored

September 19, 2013

California community colleges, after experiencing years of declining enrollment brought on by budget cuts, project increases in enrollment this fall, and colleges are making good progress in restoring course section offerings, according to results of a survey conducted by the California Community Colleges. 

The median percentage increase in enrollment projected at community colleges throughout the state is 2.5 percent, and colleges report a 5 percent increase in the number of course sections offered, according to the survey. Last year at this time, colleges were bracing for cuts that led to a 4.8 percent decline in enrollment and a 3.3 percent decline in course offerings. As bad as those cuts were, they would have been far worse had Proposition 30 failed.

The survey, which measured full-time equivalent student enrollment, was sent to the state’s 112 community colleges and 95 responded.

“Thanks to the passage of Proposition 30 last year, our community colleges now have the fiscal confidence to increase course offerings,” California Community College Chancellor Brice Harris said. “Colleges are operating in a more stable financial environment and can better serve students. This survey shows we are on the mend, but we have a lot more work to do to get back to the level of service we offered before the recession hit.”

Before the passage of Proposition 30, funding for community colleges had been cut $1.5 billion between 2007-08 and 2011-12. During that period, course sections declined nearly 24 percent system-wide, and enrollment fell from approximately 2.9 million students to the 2012-13 headcount of 2.3 million.

Proposition 30 provided California community colleges with an additional $210 million in funds from the 2012-13 budget and another $600 million in the recently approved 2013-14 state budget.

“After four years of declining revenues and course reductions, we are pleased to finally be adding sections and restoring access for our students,” said Sierra College President William H. Duncan. “With the passage of Prop. 30, we have been able to restore 254 sections, which represents more than 6,500 seats for students who will now be able to continue their education.”

Sierra College, located in Rocklin, reported a 7.8 percent increase in course sections offered this semester compared to 2012.

Other numbers gleaned from the fall 2013 enrollment survey include:

• Colleges had an average of 5,026 students on waitlists. In the fall of 2012, with 78 of 112 colleges responding to the annual survey, an average of 7,157 students were waitlisted at each college.

• The average number of course sections that were full across all colleges was about 56 percent. That’s down from 64.1 percent in the 2012 survey.

• Nearly every campus surveyed planned to offer courses in the summer of 2014. All but five colleges indicated that course offerings next summer would increase or at least stay the same as this year.

College of the Canyons Chancellor Dianne Van Hook also joined Chancellor Harris today on the media call. Her campus reported a healthy 10.2 percent increase in course offerings this fall semester. College of the Canyons, located in Santa Clarita, also will offer both a winter 2013 and summer 2014 intersession with increased course offerings for winter and approximately the same amount of classes for the summer.

“Our students always tell us that winter and summer intersessions really help them reach their goals faster,” Van Hook said. “We’ve always known this, but the last few years we just didn’t have the funding. Now, not only are we adding intersessions but we’re adding classes. That’s a big deal and a very nice thing to see.”

The California Community Colleges is the largest system of higher education in the nation. It is composed of 72 districts and 112 colleges serving 2.3 million students per year. Community colleges supply workforce training, basic skills courses in English and math, and prepare students for transfer to four-year colleges and universities. The Chancellor’s Office provides leadership, advocacy and support under the direction of the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges.

Source:  California Community Colleges