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Santa Monica College to offer winter classes

Private donations are key to the six-week session, which will offer at least 250 classes for credit, officials said. About 10,000 students are expected to enroll.

November 21, 2012|By Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times
  • Alicia Newman works on an exercise for her world history class at Santa Monica College.
Alicia Newman works on an exercise for her world history class at Santa Monica… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)

With support from private donations and the prospects of an improving economy, Santa Monica College announced Tuesday that it will offer classes this winter, after previously deciding to scrap the six-week session because of budget cuts.

Officials said the turnabout was prompted by passage of Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase measure that will allow the state's higher education systems to avoid a round of deep mid-year spending cuts. In addition, a recent report by the state Legislative Analyst's Office forecast a strong fiscal recovery.

"It was a decision about whether this was the moment to bet on the future and we basically said yes," said Don Girard, senior director of government relations and institutional communications at the Westside campus.

The winter session will begin Jan. 2, offering at least 250 classes for credit, officials said. Registration begins on Dec. 3. About 10,000 students are expected to enroll, including about 1,300 international students who pay the full cost of instruction.

About 11,385 students took courses in winter 2012, with about 400 classes offered.

The college has also secured private donations to help pay for the winter term. Girard declined to say how much has been given to the school because additional agreements are in the works.

Support may also come from the Associated Students of Santa Monica College. The student government organization is considering donating about $200,000 of its reserves to help fund classes, said President Parker Jean. The money comes from association fees paid by students and used for campus clubs and other services. The association has about $1 million in unrestricted reserves.

The board of directors is scheduled to vote next week on the action, Jean said.

"It would be a very bold statement by students," said Jean, 19, a political science major. "I think it's time for everyone to step up to the plate because we're still in such a crisis. We're seeing a collaborative effort across the board."

The Santa Monica campus had previously announced that it would cancel winter offerings after suffering nearly $8 million in state funding cuts in the 2011-12 fiscal year. It joined a list of community colleges statewide that had also decided to eliminate winter as well as summer sessions because of budget cuts.

It was uncertain how many campuses would follow Santa Monica's lead because most schools are still in a deep budget hole and would have little time to prepare for a winter session.

The Los Angeles Community College District said four of its nine campuses —- Los Angeles City, Valley, East Los Angeles and Trade Tech — will offer at least a limited selection of winter classes, which would have been unlikely had Proposition 30 not passed. The measure increases the state sales tax by a quarter cent over four years and the income tax on the state's highest earners over seven years.

Pasadena City College eliminated its winter session after offering a reduced number of classes last year. But the school decided to adopt a three-term schedule — fall, spring and summer — and start the spring semester on Jan. 7, so students don't experience a gap between terms.

"Like all schools, we're overjoyed with Prop. 30 passing, but it's not like we're rolling in dough," said Brock Klein, interim associate dean of the college's Teaching and Learning Center. "There were lessons learned from the past when we had money to burn and spent it. It's wise to proceed cautiously and thoughtfully."

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