Friday, August 19, 2011

Fall semester starts at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges

As the result of statewide budget cuts for higher education  that have sharply reduced course offerings, students at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges have been madly scrambling for available seats as East County’s two colleges begin the fall semester on Monday.
Preliminary figures for the college district show that about 24,000 students registered for this semester. Almost 200 classes have been cut this fall, on top of 1,000 classes that have been eliminated in the past two years because of slashed budgets.
Nearly 94 percent of the available courses are full. The waitlist for class seats has grown to more than 23,000, even after adjustments were made that opened up 5,000 seats. Enrolling in classes poses a particular challenge for new students who are among the last to register because of the priority given to returning students and others such as military veterans.
 “We’ve had to cut classes, even as the demand for them is growing,” said Cindy L. Miles, chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District. “High unemployment and more students who are coming to community colleges for job training has increased demand. The travesty of the budget crisis is that community colleges are finding it more and more difficult to serve our mission of providing open access to higher education.”
Students will be paying $36 per credit unit this fall, up $10 from last year, as part of a statewide fee increase for community college students. Fees could rise to $46 per credit unit for the spring if state revenues fall short of projections.
The college district is preparing a final budget that reflects $6.3 million in cuts from the state – in addition to $15 million in budget cuts over the past two years. With the uncertainty in the state budget, the possibility of further cuts still looms at the college district.
Although students are experiencing frustration in getting the classes they need, both colleges are taking steps to help them make the most of their education.
Grossmont College’s student affairs office is hosting “Week of Welcome!” – WOW – Aug. 22-26 with on-campus activities and events, such as information booths, a health professions information session, an open house for the Associated Students of Grossmont College, Inc., and more.
When a pilot program was introduced at Grossmont College last fall to help recent high school graduates with orientation, advising and an early registration opportunity, some 600 students participated, even though the special sessions were held on Saturdays.
Cuyamaca College has launched a new First-Year Experience, or FYE program, that helps recent high school graduates make the transition to college. Priority registration is granted to students who sign an agreement to complete math, English and counseling courses upon assessment. About 170 of the program’s first students will receive an orientation and barbecue on the first Friday of classes – one of several activities planned during the year to help students succeed.
“This is a comprehensive approach to ensure that students learn and persist through their first year,” said Jesus Miranda, program coordinator.
Cuyamaca College is also hosting a Welcome Back Involvement Fair from noon to 2 p.m. Aug. 22-24 on the grand lawn to get students involved in campus organizations and to inform them of events and programs that are being planned for the semester.
Bill Garrett, president of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Governing Board, said the district has prepared as much as possible for budget uncertainties.
“Our board has taken a very conservative approach to our budget planning process to ensure we are providing the best education we can despite increasingly limited dollars,” Garrett said.
For more information about Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges, go to www.gcccd.edu