The Los Angeles Community College District said Wednesday that its spring enrollment is down by more than 19,000 students, prompting officials to consider canceling a summer session this year.
The district's nine community colleges have 90,229 students in their day and evening classes this spring, down by 18% from last spring. Over two years, the spring enrollment has fallen 29%, according to the official census released Wednesday.
Community college funding is largely based on enrollment, and officials say the district could end up with a budget deficit this year.
Local college officials have blamed the precipitous enrollment drop on the state-imposed $50 fee for all students. Some students have blamed the district's cumbersome financial aid system, which, they say, has driven away needy students.
Because of the enrollment plunge, district officials said the colleges have more instructors than they need. As a partial remedy, they have officially asked the faculty union to allow the district to schedule some professors to teach in the summer, instead of their normal assignments during the regular school year.
"We don't have the money for summer session unless they are willing to go along with this," said Virginia Mulrooney, vice chancellor for personnel.
If the district and the faculty union cannot agree on a revised work schedule by the end of March, she said, summer classes will be scrapped.
In reply, union President Hal Fox called the district's proposal "negative" and "unacceptable." By switching around faculty members, the district "wants to offer a summer session at no cost."
"We can't go along with that," Fox said.
Traditionally, instructors can use summer classes to earn extra money, he said, adding that he discounts the district's statement that it does not have enough money for a summer session.
In recent years, between 20,000 and 30,000 students have enrolled in summer classes in the district's two-year colleges. The summer session was canceled once before, in 1978, after the passage of Proposition 13.
Mulrooney, who once headed the faculty union, said 1,600 full-time faculty members teach an average of 10 classes a year, 5 during the fall and 5 during the spring. They earn an average of $37,000, she said.
Despite the steep drop in its enrollment, down from a high of 136,000 in 1981, the district has not laid off any faculty members. However, the average class size has fallen from 33 to 26, Mulrooney said, and "we have some people who are on full salary but are only teaching part-time."
"We don't have the classes for them," she said.
Under the district proposal submitted Wednesday, a faculty member could draw a full salary for only teaching nine classes, but two must be held during the summer. Instructors could choose to teach seven classes during the spring, two during the summer and take off from July through January, she said.
However, Fox said in an interview that it is up to the union to reopen the contract, and "we definitely won't." Instead, the union offered the Board of Trustees a bargaining proposal Wednesday that called for a 15% raise for its highest paid professors and a 30% raise for those on the bottom end of the scale.