State Center Community College District is scrambling to add mid-semester classes this spring to boost enrollments -- and state funding -- even as district officials are considering canceling summer classes.
District officials say shutting down for the summer would save money and help campuses weather budget cuts. Already, Fresno City College and Reedley College, the district's two biggest campuses, are planning to cram more students into spring courses in an apparent attempt to compensate for the loss of summer tuition.
There's another reason to add mid-semester classes this spring: Colleges discovered that enrollments were too low, which would cut state funding, some faculty say.
The rush to add classes and students marks a sharp contrast from earlier semesters of deep cuts. But the potential cancellation of summer school has left some part-time faculty concerned whether they'll have a summer paycheck and students frustrated that they may not get the classes they need to stay on track to graduate.
The new classes will start Feb. 21 at City College and will run for 12 weeks -- about six weeks shorter than the semester. Similar classes will be added at Reedley next month.
City College Interim President Tony Cantu said 150 to 200 classes will be added to the schedule, which would accommodate up to 2,000 students. The spring semester enrollment would be boosted to about 21,600.
Jothany Blackwood, dean of fine, performing and communication arts at City College, said many of the classes will be held in off-hours -- early morning, evening and weekends -- because there isn't enough classroom space on campus.
Cantu said the additional classes would "serve those students that we're not going to be able to serve during the summer."
That seems to suggest the decision to ax summer courses has been made -- even if it's not yet official. District trustees are scheduled to vote on the recommendation at their Feb. 7 meeting.
But some faculty say there's another reason for the last-minute rush to add classes -- poor planning.
The district cut too many courses in previous semesters, trying to prepare for budget reductions, and now it's trying to ramp up enrollment, said Lacy Barnes, a Reedley College instructor and senior vice president of the California Federation of Teachers.
"That's why there's this scramble to add classes," Barnes said.
Reedley College offered 127 fewer classes this school year compared to the 2010-11 school year. City College cut about 100 classes over the last year.
Blackwood warned faculty that City College would not meet its full-time student enrollment target if summer courses were canceled.
"If we don't make the target, we won't get the funds from the state we are budgeting for," she wrote in an email to faculty early Thursday that was obtained by The Bee.
The state funds community colleges at about $4,600 per full-time student per year.
State Center's enrollment is capped at 25,169 full-time students. There are actually far more students enrolled, but many are part-time. Cantu said the district's goal was to enroll even more -- about 25,400 students.
District officials would not say how far below their enrollment target they were. However, Blackwood said City College was about 470 students below target.
Teachers have been encouraged to add more students to their classes this semester and ignore class size limits.
Cantu said teachers with classes larger than 40 will be allowed to add more students -- as long as there are seats available and fire code isn't violated.