Students in Kentucky, Hawaii, a hospital bed and a courtroom all picked up the phone last month to register for fall classes at Citrus College.
So did 872 other Citrus students who may have been closer to the Glendora campus but were glad to take advantage of the first telephone registration ever tried by a Southern California community college.
Citrus College administrators are delighted with the results of their pilot effort. They said they will do it again and may even expand it. This year students could register by phone only for the four days after registration opened Aug. 24.
"It worked so slick, I'm proud of it," said Melanie Cox, associate dean of admissions and research, who patterned the program after one at De Anza College in Cupertino. The only other two-year colleges in the state to allow telephone registration are Victor Valley College in Victorville and College of Marin in San Rafael.
Although several schools around the nation offer totally electronic registration systems, Cox said Citrus administrators prefer to have college employees at the receiving end to help students. "I had a hunch that lots of people would have problems that would be hard to resolve without someone there to help," she said.
Telephone registration was available only to students who had registered the previous semester. They were sent directions by mail and assigned times to call. A taped voice told them how to proceed; then a college employee using a computer registered them in their classes. The newly enrolled students were told that they should send registration fees within 48 hours and would receive written confirmation of their schedules.
The result, Cox said, was that 876 of Citrus College's anticipated 9,500 students completed registration by telephone. It took an average of 2 1/2 minutes to register each caller, compared to about half an hour to register in person.
Cox said the system also relieved congestion in the administration building, where as many as 100 students register per hour.
In addition, she said, the telephone system may reduce late registration.
"Registration is always in August, and it's always a problem for those who are away," Cox said. This year, vacationing students called from all over the country, including Florida, Kentucky and Hawaii. One woman said she was registering from a hospital bed, and a man on jury duty called during a courtroom break. A woman called to register her husband while he was at work.
James Randall of Covina, enrolling for his second semester of evening classes at Citrus, said that in Wisconsin, where he used to live, he registered for more college classes than he can remember. "I've spent all morning or all afternoon in other schools, going from Line A to Line B," he said. "Here I just gave them a couple of numbers on the phone, and bango! I'm in. It was that simple. I knew there had to be an easier way."
"It was great," said Kerri Fowler of La Verne, who has three small children and was relieved not to have to hire a sitter again for registration. A student "off and on for quite awhile," she said registration has always been a time-consuming process that disrupted her schedule.
"One call, the lady was super nice, it took a couple of minutes, and I'm all set," Fowler said.
Citrus College President Louis E. Zellers said: "We're constantly searching for ways to make the college more student-friendly. The registration process can be very intimidating. What we've tried is eliminating as many artificial barriers as possible by doing it by telephone. We haven't asked for feedback, but lots of people have volunteered how much they appreciated it."
The cost of the program was estimated at $15,000, mostly for additional temporary personnel and mailing expenses. Each caller was charged $2 for registration.
"I can't think of any way this saved money, except maybe in terms of staff morale," Cox said. "By relieving registration here by almost 900 people, that really helped."
Cox said telephone registration of continuing students will be repeated in the spring. Then, she predicted, more students will take advantage of it as word spreads, and next fall the program may include students who have previously attended Citrus and dropped out or transferred.
But Cox doubts that the program will ever be expanded to new students because registering them is so complex.
Citrus College, on Glendora's western border, also serves Monrovia, Duarte, Azusa, Bradbury and Claremont. Less than half the size of nearby Pasadena City College and Mt. San Antonio College, it competes for students with at least seven four-year schools within a half-hour drive, Zellers said.
"We have to try to make (registration) as pleasant an experience as possible," he said. "The way (the phone program) has been accepted, I'm sure we'll make it available to others."