Low Enrollment Epidemic Hits GCC, Classes Canceled

DIANA PETRAS
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Enrollment for full-time college students has dropped six percent since 2003 and continues to stay at a steady sum of about 12,300 students because of tuition hikes, student interest and a lack of classroom and parking space.

There are 109 California community colleges, and a majority of them are having problems with low enrollment this fall.

Unfortunately, Glendale Community College is no exception, and it is now lacking in FTES (Full time Equivalent Student). “There are some [community colleges] that continue to do well [without any problems of low enrollment], but they’re usually in areas that have an increase of population,” said Larry Serot, Executive Vice President for Administrative Services.

According to the Vice President of Instructional Services, Steve White, colleges receive a certain amount of money from the government for a certain number of FTES. The more students enrolled means more money for the school. When there are fewer students, the school loses money that could benefit the school.

White said that an FTES is one credit or non-credit student enrolled at Glendale College. The student must be enrolled in 15 units for both the fall and spring semesters to have a total of 30 units total, said White.

In terms of money, he said that the college receives about $3,900 to $4,000 for one credit FTES and around $2,200 for one non-credit FTES. “There are about 16,000 credit and non-credit FTES enrolled at Glendale College, said White, “The school receives about $70,000,000 for that many FTES.”

The number of FTES each year is expected to grow. When the school does not reach the growth enrolled, the school loses money.
However, in order for the FTES number to grow, the economy has to be doing poorly. One major reason why community colleges are struggling with low enrollment this semester is because student enrollment has an inverse relationship with the economy.

“When the economy is doing well and people are working, they won’t go to school to be trained to work on job skills,” said Serot. “So whenever the economy does well, our enrollment goes flat. Then when the economy is bad and people are out of work, they go back to college to retrain, and student enrollment increases.”

Another reason to why student enrollment has not increased may be because of the two fee increases that have happened at GCC. In 2002 the enrollment fee at GCC was $13 per unit. Then in 2003 it increased to $18 per unit; in 2004 and 2005 the fee jumped to $26 per unit. With each fee hike, student enrollment decreased and now the number of FTES attending Glendale College is around a stable sum of 12,300 students.

Both Serot and White have said that low enrollment affects everyone. Even Dr. Teresa Cortey, Chair of the Foreign Language Department said, “Low enrollment classes are still classes deserving of respect, and [French] 103 and [French] 104 are part of the core program of the major, and [those classes] cannot be cancelled without hurting [other] students.”

However, White said that there may be some limitation to the numbers of students attending Glendale College because of parking and the numbers of classrooms available on campus. The college is unable to offer new courses and services for students. Part-time professors are unable to teach because there are not enough classrooms for them.

“The number of students enrolled is not low. Enrollment is just flat like others in all the other community colleges in the state because of the economy,” said Serot.

He also said that low enrollment does not affect the students who plan on transferring to a four-year university. Programs like the nursing and transfer programs are very popular among most students; their classes are never lacking in interested students.

However, Serot also said that there are students who are taking classes in areas that are not as popular as finishing general education requirements or getting into the nursing program. Programs like computer science are the ones that have taken a dive in the number of students taking the course.

Public Relations student Nanor Avedissian has experienced one of the consequences of low enrollment. She expected to earn a Public Relations Certificate this semester, but the one class she needed to earn the certificate was cancelled.

Avedissian said, “Specialty classes are empty and the general education classes are full. People just want to finish their general education and get out.”

The school hopes that the number of students will increase next year. The construction in the back of the school includes a new parking structure and a new three floor building called Bhupseh Parikh Health Services and Technology.

Enrollment fees are going to be lowered for winter intersession 2007. Serot, White, and even Associate Dean and Director of Financial Aid Patricia Hurley all said that fees are changing from $26 per unit to $20 per unit.

The college is working on ways to advertise the school. “We are increasing our advertising budget, and we are developing a new newsletter to the community that will have an insert directed at high school students and their parents,” said Serot.

According to Serot, the school’s job is to market itself through webcasting on websites like Myspace.com to get the word out to the public. They are also going to advertise in different languages to let more people know about Glendale College in hopes of increasing the number of students here at Glendale College and eliminate the problem of low enrollment.