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Orange County

Long Lines at College Stem From Short Budget

In O.C. and throughout the state, students are hobbled by meager offerings.

June 18, 2003|Ashley Powers | Times Staff Writer

Twenty-four hours after Irvine Valley College opened summer registration to new students, nearly two-thirds of the courses were filled Tuesday -- another symptom of a financial crunch plaguing the state's community colleges.

For Stella Shin, it meant she wouldn't be able to take the summer classes she needed to transfer to UC Santa Cruz in the fall as planned.

The 21-year-old Irvine resident was irritated, yet resigned.

"Hey," said her boyfriend, Hector Fried. "It's a fact of school."

Colleges across the state are making do with abbreviated class offerings and cutbacks in hours, staffing and services.

Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa usually offers about 500 summer classes. That figure has dropped to 100. Cypress College's child care center will close July 1.

In the North Orange County Community College District, 41 new staff positions were expected. That has been sliced to seven, and district campuses didn't schedule afternoon summer classes to lower energy costs.

Things could get dicier. Gov. Gray Davis' proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 would cut community college budgets 6.2%, or $404 million, throughout the California Community College system. But since the state budget hasn't been passed, no one is certain what the future holds.

"It's like having a checking account and not knowing what's in it," said Mark Godding, Irvine Valley's public information officer.

At the Irvine campus, a 12-week summer session was dropped, and the number of classes offered tumbled nearly a third to 298. That's why about two-thirds of classes were spoken for 24 hours after open enrollment began.

On Monday, when registration opened for the public, lines snaked through the Student Services Center. Many waited as long as three hours, and some could only put their names on waiting lists.

By dinnertime, students in the lawn chair-laden line were hushing their crying children. Some parents had skipped work to enroll their high school-age children. One student balanced an entree on one knee and a salad on the other.

Few dared leave, but frustration was evident. All the Irvine Valley staff could do was work the line, apologizing for the long wait and the limited number of class offerings.

"We've been made to ... lose the fat for a while," said Ruben Guzman, Irvine Valley's admissions and records registrar. "In the process of leaning down, it's going to impact students."

Fried, 18, of Tustin, had snagged three classes: physical anthropology, Japanese culture and English. But not the English class he actually wanted. For that, he was on a waiting list.

And Fried had registered early.

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