ACTC Classrooms ?Full to the Fire Marshal Level?

Michael J. Arvizu
El Vaquero Staff Writer

The mission: to help students. However, with classrooms filled to capacity, the Adult Community Training Center’s goal of helping students is becoming “Mission: Impossible.”

Glendale Community College’s ACTC on Garfield Avenue provides noncredit ESL classes to adults living in Glendale. The center has 80 part-time instructors and seven full-time instructors.

Currently, the center’s ESL classes are packed, with an average of 39 people per classroom in the program’s 33 classes. According to figures provided by ACTC, roughly 5,000 to 6,000 students register for noncredit ESL per semester. The ESL day program has 3,500 students on its waiting list and 1,600 students on the waiting list for the ESL Level 1 night classes.

According to GCC President Dr, John Davitt, 20 percent of GCC’s enrollment comes from ACTC. In fall 2001, total registration for ACTC was 13,951 students, an increase from 12,240 students in fall 1998.
Given the fact that some classrooms have been filled to capacity and demand for admission has grown, ACTC has been forced to turn some students away.

“People flip when they see these numbers for noncredit [classes],” said Barbara Assadi, division chair of English as a Second Language

Overcrowding has led to the establishment of a lottery system in the business and education classes to monitor the number of students enrolled. The number of names drawn depends on the number of seats available. The lottery system is not being used in ESL because ESL classes last longer and there is a waiting list. If the student does not get selected for a business or computer class, he or she can come back the next semester.

“We don’t know how many actual seats will be available in a class until the day it starts,” said ACTC administrative assistant Barbara Keegan.

It is a frustrating reality that some adult students, who come to the center to learn English and to become familiar with American society, get turned down because there isn’t enough room to accommodate them, said Assadi.

“Thirty-nine students in a class?” asked Assadi. To ease overcrowding somewhat, the center has rented spaces around the city, including rooms at the Verdugo Job Center, Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church and Salvation Army. But even these classrooms are “full to the fire marshal level with waiting lists,” Assadi said. These temporary facilities often lack desks (in which case, tables are used) and audio/visual equipment.

In addition to ESL classes, the center also provides computer training, parent education, business courses and the General Education Development test, or GED, which, if passed, is equivalent to a high school diploma.

The key to doing better in one’s career is education, said Assadi. Education is an ongoing process. For example, students in the vocational ESL classes are guided through the steps necessary in finding a job, getting a job and keeping a job. However, after landing a level-entry job, some students come back.
“They [students] come back in six months and say, `I need to study more English,’ or `I need to study more computers,’ said Assadi. “Because of their situation, credit [courses] may not be the most appropriate thing for them at that point.

“The question is,” said Assadi, “are we better off with these students in school or out of school? Some of these students are with us for a very long time. They want to keep learning.”

Assadi also attributes some of ACTC’s overcrowding to the recent increase in layoffs in the general workforce. Most people have no choice but to come back to school to brush up on their computer, business or language skills.

Space will also be an issue for the center’s high school diploma program, which, according to Assadi, is expected to grow because of more stringent graduation requirements. Currently, there are 680 students enrolled in the high school diploma program. Assadi expects this number to rise to about 900 during May and June, when some students will make a last-minute push to graduate on time. Of the program’s 680 students, 450 are concurrent high school students who are using the program to catch up in units they need in order to graduate. The other 230 students are over 18 and no longer eligible to attend high school.

Growth in the high school diploma program means that students will be packed into classrooms in any way possible, said Assadi. The program has no waiting list, and it does not deny entrance to any student due to overcrowding.