Enrollment down, but options are up at LTCC | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Enrollment down, but options are up at LTCC

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Greg Chapman saws metal studs to be used in the construction of the new library at Lake Tahoe Community College.

On the bright side, Lake Tahoe Community College is offering a new certificate program in Wilderness Studies, and the construction of a 26,619-square-foot library should be completed by early February.

The down note is the college is grappling with declining enroll-ment, which has lowered its rank of school size for the 109 California community colleges and prompted a recruiting effort to 18 high schools this fall.

Nonetheless, school officials are looking forward to the start of the 2005-06 school year today.

Rosie Werner is among the excited. As head of the Wilderness Studies program, she is overseeing its transition from individual classes to a network of courses designed to give a certificate to students after a year of study.

The certificate could open job opportunities such as being a river raft guide, ski instructor, rock climber, wilderness ranger, camp counselor or ropes course facilitator.

To her knowledge Werner believes only two other California community colleges offer such certificates in wilderness studies. She hopes to turn the certificate into an associates degree that is transferable to four-year colleges and universities.

Wilderness Studies classes have been offered at the college since 1987. Nineteen courses were available in 2000 with it growing to 32 by 2004.

“As far as student enrollment, 1987 had 103 students throughout the year and by 2004 we had 504 students throughout the year enjoying our wilderness courses,” Werner stated by e-mail. “Hopefully the certificate will bring even more outdoor enthusiasts looking to learn.”

Speaking on Wednesday, a day before she was flown out by a credit card company to teach teamwork skills to employees, Werner said there are areas of concentration in the program: backcountry, climbing, snow skills or wilderness education. She hopes the certificate will lure students, those who don’t take kindly to a classroom, into the program, which only has one class in the classroom.

Although a new count will be taken today, a tally last Monday revealed 2,020 students had signed up for classes. Last fall, also a week before the start date, there were 2,268 students already enrolled in classes, a difference of 248 or an 11 percent decrease.

College President Guy Lease remarked it “will be a tight year for us” but was optimistic about the school year.

Declining enrollment is believed to have been caused by fee raises instituted by the state for two consecutive years starting in the 2003-04 school year, better economy and loss of residents who either look for jobs elsewhere or take advantage of high housing prices to sell their home, said Lori Gaskin, vice president of academic affairs and student services.

To help battle the declines, college representatives visited 15 high schools last spring with 18 scheduled for this fall. Concentrations will be on the Bay Area, Sacramento, Los Angeles area, Orange County and San Diego areas.

“We are on the circuit,” Gaskin said. “We are on the recruitment circuit. We’ve never had to do this before.”

One class that remains popular is the Real Estate Principals class, which reflects the booming nature of the housing market in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The class was moved from a classroom with a capacity of 40 students to a larger one that holds 50 students, said Cynthea Preston, dean of instruction.

Early Thursday the class was almost full with 48 students, Preston said.

Preston thought computer classes – such as one concentrating on Spyware, another on wireless networking for home or small offices and an introduction to computer networks – would also draw students. So far, though, enrollment in those classes are lackluster.

Yet officials said the average of 14 students per class and the available 38 Associate of Art degrees and 20 certificate programs recognized by the state are too good to pass up.

– E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com

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