Low enrollment causes funding deficit, class cancellations

By Andrew Weedon, Scene Editor

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The class schedule is taking drastic cuts this semester as campus administrators try to regain some of the college’s financial surplus, which has been dwindling in the last few years.

Since the college leadership has undergone major changes over the last five years, the class schedule has been severely neglected with a large number of low enrollment classes being allowed, Contra Costa College Vice President Ken Sherwood said.

“We have essentially been hemorrhaging money over the last five years due in part to low enrollment in classes,” he said.

Several classes have been canceled this semester due to a lack of enrollment.

Liberal Arts Division Dean Jason Berner said, “There have been about 10 classes canceled in the Liberal Arts Division.”

Most of the classes that were canceled however, are classes that have multiple sections and only one of them had low enrollment, Berner said.

Berner said he would prefer not to cancel classes but sometimes it must be done.

A decision to cancel a class not only includes enrollment but also the status of the course and department. If a class is very new and not many students are enrolling, they might cancel it to build interest for future semesters.

“All of the division deans sit down and look at every single class before the semester to see if they meet our guidelines,” Sherwood said. “If a class passes this but doesn’t have 10 students by the first day of class, it will be canceled.”

Many students believe that the college is suddenly cracking down on this problem, but in reality, this is how most colleges run and it was in fact business as usual many years ago, Sherwood said.

Some students have been affected by these cancellations because the some of the classes that were canceled were ones required for their major.

Student Victoria Fairchild has had her Pharmacology class canceled four semesters in a row due to low enrollment. She also had her Dual Diagnosis class canceled which forced her to take a math class that interferes with her job.

“I basically go to class on my lunch break then go back to work,” Fairchild said. “I really hope it gets fixed because I am starting to lose faith in my school.”

With the new push toward enrollment management, it is hoped that the schedule will begin to better cater to the students’ needs, Sherwood said.

“Ideally we would use data from the last few years to decide what classes to offer in the first place. It’s there so we should us it.”

As Berner explained, the major problem here is productivity.

If you have a class with only 10 students, then the college is losing money since it is paying the teacher more than the students are bringing in.

“This is where the college has been losing a lot of money and a leading reason for why CCC doesn’t have its 5 percent reserve that the state of California requires,” Sherwood said.

Photojournalism instructor John Diestler said, “If you are canceling classes because you don’t have the budget, then you have to wonder if the classes are the problem or the amount of money the state is providing is the problem.”

Diestler has had his Photojournalism class canceled three years in a row, again for low enrollment. It was canceled this semester when it was only one student short of the required minimum.

“We work within the parameters we are given. Then when we meet our budget by canceling classes the state sees that we are fine and nothing changes.”

For both the Photojournalism and Pharmacology classes, they are required for their respective majors.

“Nobody wants to cancel classes. Ideally, we would either have the right number of classes in the beginning or have enough enrollment to open a section,” Berner said.

One step the college is taking is to improve outreach to help pull more students to the campus, Sherwood said.

“Our new Outreach Program Manager Maryam Attai is out almost every day at schools and events recruiting more students.”

Having more students is important because CCC has the same number of classes as Los Medanos College, which has nearly 2,000 more students.

“Our goal is to create a schedule that is the right size for our students’ needs while also meeting state initiatives,” Sherwood said.