College students return to larger crowds on campus |

College students return to larger crowds on campus

Christina Proctor / Lake Tahoe Community College
Adam Jensen / Tahoe Daily TribuneStudents go to and from Lake Tahoe Community College on Thursday afternoon.

At 6 p.m. on a week day, a steady stream of cars flows into the Lake Tahoe Community College campus. Students are back, and back in greater numbers than ever before. The number of full-time students has increased by almost 20 percent compared to last fall, and students have noticed.

“The first day of school you saw students with handfuls of pink paper trying to add classes,” said Bryan Swartout, 19, referring to the college’s late add forms. “It was really chaotic. In the chemistry classes, it is standing room only.”

Unfortunately for students, this increased demand comes at a time of shrinking state budgets, which has affected community colleges throughout California. The system’s recent increase in enrollments for 2008-’09 is well beyond the 2 percent growth funding the colleges received from the state budget. Additionally, the California Community Colleges sustained $840 million in state funding cuts for the 2008-’09 and 2009-’10 academic years combined.

“We are still trying to serve our students,” said Susan Middleton, interim vice president of Academic Affairs and Student Services. “But we are trying to be more efficient in the process. We have to offer fewer sections with more students in them.”

The California Legislature raised tuition at the state’s community colleges starting this fall quarter, from $13 to $17 per unit.

Revenues from the student fee increase will help offset budget cuts by about $80 million, according to the California Community Colleges’ Chancellor’s Office. An undetermined level of federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds will also provide some degree of aid to the colleges and help mitigate the state cuts to the current year’s budget. The ARRA funds, however, will not be a sustained source of income as it is proposed funding for only one year.

LTCC math instructor Bruce Armbrust said his classes are full and, for the first time, he had to turn students away.

“I’ve never had to do that before,” Armbrust said.

LTCC’s career education programs are “bursting at the seams,” according to Virginia Boyar, director of career and technical education.

“We filled two EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) sections by 1 p.m. on the first day of open registration. They have always been popular courses, but they have never closed that quickly before,” Boyar said.

At the end of the third week of registration, the college had 919 full-time students – an increase of 145 students from fall 2008; the college’s part-time student numbers dropped by 138. The average age of the college’s full-time students is 23.

Statewide the final 2008-2009 headcount for California Community Colleges reflects a 4.9 percent increase in students in relation to the 2007-2008 academic year. The total number of students enrolled in California’s community colleges was 2,913,735, the highest enrollment figure in the history of the system.

– Tribune Managing Editor Elaine Goodman contributed to this report.

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