West Los Angeles College, suffering from a 15% annual decline in enrollment, hopes to bolster attendance next semester as a result of a new agreement with Santa Monica College, which has an ample supply of students.
Under terms of the agreement, Los Angeles residents seeking to attend Santa Monica College have until Dec. 20 to register for the spring term. After that, they will be diverted to West Los Angeles. The agreement also outlines some changes in class schedules aimed at drawing more students to West Los Angeles.
Unlike most community colleges in California, Santa Monica has experienced a consistently strong enrollment, according to James Fugle, assistant superintendent for education.
"We are located in an area where the ability and desire to go to school is high," he said.
Santa Monica attracts many full-time students seeking college degrees who are less likely to drop out of school because of employment and economic conditions, he said. Schools that depend more on part-time students are more affected by economic factors, he said.
While Santa Monica's enrollment stands at about 22,000, West Los Angeles has lost 12% to 15% of its enrollment annually for the past three years, said Anatol Mazor, vice president for academic affairs. West Los Angeles has about 6,000 students this year, compared to about 7,000 last year and about 8,000 the year before, he said.
Relationship to Funding
Declining enrollment is affecting community colleges throughout the state. It is a critical problem because state funding for the colleges is primarily based on enrollment, Mazor said.
The Los Angeles Community College District, with nine schools including West Los Angeles College, estimates that it has lost $33 million in state funds in the last four years as enrollment has dropped from about 139,000 in 1981 to about 89,000 this year.
Mazor said that many factors have reduced attendance at West Los Angeles and the other colleges in the Los Angeles district, including the $50 tuition mandated by the state in 1983 and the earlier starting date (August for the fall semester and January for the spring) instituted by the district last year.
Also, he said, "there are more jobs out there, so students are going to work."
West Los Angeles hopes to gain about 600 students through the new agreement with Santa Monica College, Mazor said.
In addition to the Dec. 20 enrollment deadline at Santa Monica, the agreement includes the following provisions:
- West Los Angeles, which starts its terms five weeks before Santa Monica, will begin about 30 of its classes at the same time that Santa Monica opens. Thus, when courses are full at Santa Monica, students can be diverted to West Los Angeles.
- Classes in real estate and police science previously offered at Santa Monica will be given instead by West Los Angeles at off-campus locations in Marina del Rey and Westwood.
- Santa Monica will include two pages of West Los Angeles course offerings in its catalogue, and will advertise them on the college radio station.
In exchange for Santa Monica's help on enrollment, the Los Angeles district has agreed not to oppose efforts to renew state legislation allowing Santa Monica College to enroll Los Angeles students, Mazor and Fugle said.
Santa Monica is seeking a three-year extension of the law, which expires in June. The law allows an average of 5,000 Los Angeles residents to attend Santa Monica College daily, Fugle said. Under the average-daily-attendance concept, 5,000 full-time or 10,000 half-time students from Los Angeles could be enrolled, he said.