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The Valley

Some Students at CSUN Branch Feel Abandoned

July 29, 2002|JESSICA BLANCHARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As Ventura County prepares to celebrate the opening of a long-awaited Cal State campus, a handful of students at the county's branch campus of Cal State Northridge say they are being forgotten.

After providing the impetus from which the new campus could grow, those students say they are facing shrinking course offerings and a lack of academic guidance.

Now, they are concerned about graduating on time. Liberal studies majors seem particularly hard-hit and fear the problems could hurt their ability to earn their teaching credentials. "To me this is ridiculous ... it's like a slap in the face," said Maddie Valenzuela, a 21-year-old liberal studies major who is scheduled to graduate from CSUN in spring 2003.

She worries that she won't be able to take the required courses when she needs them, potentially delaying her graduation and entry into a teacher credential program.

And even more frustrating, she feels that college administrators are more focused on smoothing the way for students in Cal State Channel Islands' first class this fall than they are on helping existing CSUN students graduate on time.

"I feel like they needed students there so they could get university status, and now that they have their status, they don't need us," Valenzuela said. "I'm really disappointed in how they treated us."

University officials acknowledge that some students might have a bumpy transition as the two schools coexist on the Channel Islands campus until the CSUN branch phases out by 2006.

But they say they are trying their best to make sure each student graduates on schedule.

With 1,900 full- and part-time students, the local CSUN branch is the largest off-campus center in the Cal State University system.

It is unknown how many students are experiencing similar difficulties, but Steve Lefevre, director of the CSUN campus at Channel Islands, said he has spoken with about a dozen students who were concerned about meeting the graduation requirements.

While he reassures them that the school is committed to helping them graduate in a timely fashion, he said he realizes the transition between the two schools may not be smooth for everyone. "We want to be good with our commitment to students," he said. "But I can't say [the transition] will be perfect....It's a little bit of an experiment."

The conflict stems from CSUN's plan to slowly phase out its major programs to make way for similar CSUCI programs.

The branch campus is limiting the number of courses it offers in certain majors as it attempts to reduce its overall enrollment in the next few years.

As a result, there are fewer weekend and evening classes, which makes it difficult for some students who work full time and can't take classes during the day.

Lefevre said he empathizes with those students, but since there are a dwindling number of students in the programs slated to be phased out, there won't be as many sections of certain courses as there have been in the past.

Students have the option of transferring from CSUN to Channel Islands, but there is no guarantee the degree requirements will be the same. But college administrators have pledged to work with students to make sure they can graduate with a CSUN degree.

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