City feeling the squeeze

Evonne Ermey

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Evonne Ermey
City Times

Fewer class sections, larger class sizes, and shorter student service hours. The following are what students can expect upon their return to City College this semester as administrators do their best to trim fat off of bare bones in the face of mid-year budget cuts.

The cuts proposed in Governor Schwarzenegger’s 09/10 budget would relieve the California public education system of some $6 to $10 billion in state funding. City College president Terrence Burgess expects that City College’s share of that cut will be approximately $1.8 million.

With the implementation of a hiring freeze and the dissolution of 60 to 70 sections from the class schedule administrators hope to reduce this year’s expenditures by $915,000 dollars, leaving the remaining $811,000 deficit to be absorbed next year.

Cutting sections in a way that produces the least negative impact is the ultimate goal for administrators.

“Sections will be cut determined by a combination of enrollment patterns. What impact will cutting a section have on the program? How many total sections are there in the program that are loaded at 80%? If we cut one section will they have a good chance of getting into another section? The big issue is fill rate and demand. These things don’t usually change. These are trends,” said Richard Dittbenner, Director of Public Information and Government Relations for the San Diego Community College District.

Still, both Dittbenner and Burgess acknowledge that some students with inflexible schedules will feel the impact of the cuts. The only departments that have not been subjected to the knife are the Sciences as they are the most in demand.

As for the 2010 school year and the remaining $811,000 in reductions needed, “Frankly, we’re kind of running out of places to look for the other $811,000 there are only one or two things we can do. Reduce the class schedule further or reduce student services,” said Burgess.

Reduced services may come in the form of less library hours and the elimination of Friday classes from the summer intercession. The four week intercession option for summer has already been dissolved.

“We are doing scenario planning right now. It depends on what the state is going to do,” says Burgess.

Another challenge to the College’s emaciated budget comes in the form of rising enrollment rates. College freshmen finding their plans to attend UC or CSU thwarted by cuts in freshman admissions this year have suddenly found themselves seeking higher education at community Colleges. This, combined with the rising enrollment that is a general symptom of economic turmoil, means less money and more students for City.

“Enrollment grew about 6 percent in the fall. Early numbers from last week show us running 15 percent over what we were doing last year,” said Burgess in a phone interview on January 16. “For us to cut community college funding at a time when we need them more than ever is shortsighted.”

“We’ve never experienced anything like this in California. Community colleges have never experienced anything like this. We’ve never had a recession this deep in modern history,” echoed Dittbenner.

With the forecast for community colleges looking bleak, Burgess urges students to be proactive. “Students can be very effective in having a voice that is heard. I hope students will be motivated to contact their local government officials and senators.”

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