An aggressive campaign to attract new students to West Los Angeles College has been credited with increasing enrollment by 33% in one year, according to acting President Linda Thor.
The Culver City-based college reversed a six-year decline with the enrollment of 8,706 students this year, 2,100 more than last year.
The eight other campuses in the Los Angeles Community College District also experienced an overall increase of about 11.4%, or about 10,000 new students, according to figures released last week. The district now has 104,000 students.
District officials attribute much of the growth to a decision to move the start of the fall term from late August to a more traditional mid-September date.
'Out of Sync'
"The August starting time was out of sync with other school systems," Thor said. "Many (community college) students are parents and it is difficult for parents to return to school in August if their children don't return until September."
In addition, there have been efforts to increase the public's awareness of West Los Angeles College and improve course offerings.
"We recruited like mad," Thor said. There were newspaper ads, mailings to 180,000 homes and public service spots on radio. The college even encouraged the Culver City bus line to add new routes to serve students.
Also, an interdistrict agreement signed in February restricts the number of students from West Los Angeles' area who may attend Santa Monica Community College. Financial penalties are assessed if Santa Monica College accepts more than 5,000 Los Angeles students.
Santa Monica College, which paid Los Angeles $100,000 in penalties this year, has been reducing the number of students it accepts from outside its district. Santa Monica College has also deliberately reduced its enrollment from 19,722 last fall to 18,006 this year.
Thor said the enrollment figures are a positive step for West Los Angeles College, which has long suffered from a lack of recognition. The college recently commissioned a survey of 100 high school seniors and 400 adults from its service area and found that 68% of the seniors and 78% of the adults knew little or nothing about the school.
"People come up to me all the time and tell me, 'I have driven by the college for years and never knew it was there,' " Thor said. The campus is on a picturesque hillside in Culver City.
Thor was appointed acting president in February, replacing M. Jack Fugimoto, who had headed the school for seven years.
After being given the position, Thor was asked to increase the enrollment by 20% this fall. "We increased it well over the amount they had set," she said.
The next challenge, she said, is to build on the success.
"What we are trying to do is improve our relationship with the high schools in our service areas," she said. "Basically we want to improve our image with the teachers and counselors so that they are referring their graduates to us."
To accomplish this the college has expanded its course offerings, simplified registration and started a more direct appeal to high school students.
West Los Angeles College recently adopted Hamilton High School and Culver City's El Rincon Elementary School. Venice and Culver City high school students take college-level courses on the campus. And Thor is planning to make the campus more accessible to teachers, administrators and community groups.
The increases posted by the Los Angeles Community College District's eight other campuses:
Los Angeles City College increased 8%, from 14,047 to 15,173.
East Los Angeles College increased 4%, from 11,569 to 12,031.
Los Angeles Harbor College increased 10%, from 7,848 to 8,636.
Los Angeles Mission College increased 48.9%, from 3,376 to 5,028.
Los Angeles Pierce College increased 5.1%, from 17,883 to 18,799.
Los Angeles Southwest College increased 44.4%, from 3,027 to 4,371
Los Angeles Trade Technical College increased 2.6%, from 12,321 to 12,644.
Los Angeles Valley College increased 11%, from 16,674 to 18,509.