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Course Crunch Hitting Students At San Diego Community Colleges, Too

Aired 4/11/12 on KPBS News.

Course crunch that lead Santa Monica College officials to consider offering more sections at higher prices also hitting San Diego community colleges.

— Santa Monica College officials recently voted to postpone plans to offer additional sections of over-subscribed courses at much higher costs. There may not be controversial fee plans in the works in San Diego County, but community college students are getting squeezed out of courses here, too.

Thanks to state budget cuts the San Diego Community College District is offering 2,637 fewer course sections this year than it did three years ago, according to Richard Dittbenner, spokesman for the district. That meant starting out the school year by denying more than 20,000 requests to enroll in district classes.

Palomar Community College has cut its summer course section offerings by half, said Laura Gropen, the school's communications director.

Fewer courses doesn't just mean frustration for students trying to enroll in the classes they want or need in order to complete degree or transfer requirements.

Martin Pollack is a veteran and in his first semester at San Diego’s Mesa College. Even if he’s able to stick to the academic plan he’s mapped out, he already knows that fewer seats in core classes will cost him down the line.

“My G.I. Bill runs out in three years and with them not having a summer session and them having less courses I’m going to spend my entire G.I Bill at a community college – because I’m going to be here for longer – when I should be using it at a state university,” he said

If a temporary tax increase proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown doesn’t get voter approval in November, Palomar plans to cut about 20 percent of its remaining course section, Gropen said.

San Diego’s community colleges would lose another 600 to 700 classes. Dittbenner said in an email that the district is using reserve funds to offer enough courses for 1,500 more full-time students than district revenues would support, an arrangement that can only last as long as reserve funds do.

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