Enrollment is down at all three of Ventura County's community colleges this fall, with officials attributing the decline largely to the state's fiscal troubles.
Enrollment at Oxnard College was down 11.67% from the same period last year, while Moorpark College dipped 6.19% and Ventura College decreased 3.56%. Districtwide, enrollment was down 6.44%.
Officials at all three colleges cited three factors for the drop: a hike in student fees from $11 to $18 per unit, a reduction in course offerings and the decision to forgo the usual mass mailing of the college schedule for the fall semester.
The result of these measures, all in response to cuts in state funding, isn't surprising, officials said.
"If you cut your services and you charge more for them ... it doesn't take a marketing executive to figure out that you're going to have a little bit of a drop" in business, said Joan Smith, executive vice president at Ventura College.
The number of classes offered at each college also dropped: from 769 to 685 at Oxnard College, from 1,584 to 1,451 at Moorpark and from 1,772 to 1,562 at Ventura.
But even with the cuts in classes, officials said, there are still openings. Although most classes began Aug. 18, some start later in the semester.
"The demand is being met adequately," said Dennis Cabral, executive vice president at Moorpark College, which has 13,900 students. "Some students are disappointed ... but there are still a lot of classes to enroll in."
Ramiro Sanchez, executive vice president at Oxnard College, which has 6,700 students, agreed. "With the exception of some high-demand courses during prime time, we've been able to meet the demand for all the students," he said.
In addition to class cuts, Moorpark stopped offering off-site courses, while Oxnard reduced them.
Ventura, which has 12,000 students, was able to keep its off-site classes going, Smith said, because local high schools opted not to charge rent.
Mike Gregoryk, deputy chancellor of the community college district, pointed out that while times were tough now, the downturn wouldn't last forever.
"We had to cut a number of classes, so that affected enrollment," Gregoryk said. "But we're hoping that with the spring and summer sessions, we'll be back up to projections."