Friday, January 23, 2015

Cuyamaca, Grossmont colleges begin spring semester in upbeat mode


Spring semester begins Monday for more than 27,000 students at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges amid a sense of progress as the campuses benefit from a recovering economy and a state and national focus on the value of community colleges.

During gatherings this week welcoming faculty back to campus after the winter break, the college presidents highlighted their institutions’ efforts to promote student success, increase the number of classes being offered, and slowly add back some of the staffing lost during the recession.

At Grossmont College, more than 150 course sections have been added for the 2014-15 academic year, opening the campus to as many as 420 more students. Enrollment currently stands at about 18,000 for Grossmont and 9,000 for Cuyamaca. For the second year in a row, both colleges offered winter intersession courses that allowed student to earn some additional class credits.

“We have filled much-needed positions, added classes and are serving more students,” said Tim Flood, interim president for Grossmont College. “This is great news as we begin to climb out of the Great Recession.”

Similarly at Cuyamaca College, enrollment goals were exceeded for 2013-14 and the campus is on target to more than match the student numbers set by the state for the current year for funding purposes. 

“We are in the business of serving students and doing all we can to help them succeed,” Cuyamaca College President Mark Zacovic said. “That students are responding to our efforts and coming to Cuyamaca College is a sure sign we are making our mission known.”

Both colleges are readying for new construction projects currently in the planning phases as a result of East County voters’ 2012 approval of Proposition V, a $398 million construction bond. The first major projects are Cuyamaca’s Student Services Building, which will include a veterans center, and Grossmont’s Arts and Communication Complex, which will house a teaching and performance theater and concert hall.

The colleges are also continuing their efforts as part of the East County Education Alliance, a partnership between the college district and the Grossmont Union High School District designed to provide high-schoolers a smoother path to college and a career. Alliance members from the college and high school districts are working to better align curriculum between high school and college, provide communications to students and parents to prepare for college or a career, and raise scholarship funds for students who commit to preparing for college.

Community colleges are getting a lot of attention lately, from President Obama’s proposal for making community colleges free, to a proposed budget by California Gov. Jerry Brown that provides robust funding that would allow community colleges to grow and better serve students.

Although Obama’s proposal and the governor’s budget face many hurdles before they are approved, they have focused attention on community colleges, said Cindy L. Miles, chancellor for the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.

“It has stimulated a national conversation,” she said. “It has reinvigorated the recognition of the importance of community college.”

The chancellor also pointed to the “wonderful testimony” of Oscar-winning actor and Chabot College alum Tom Hanks’ recent New York Times column in which he hailed the community college as making him what he is today.

“Many lives have been changed – you have a profound effect on our students,” Miles told attendees at the campus gatherings. “Each and every one of you plays an important role in their success.”