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COC enrollment up, despite cuts

Number of students might be an all-time high, but budget woes mean fewer courses

Posted: August 24, 2009 10:39 p.m.
Updated: August 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.

First-year students at College of the Canyons Justin Barnes, 18, and Amylla Sullano, 18, go over their options inside the fall 2009 schedule of classes during the first day of the semester Monday morning.

 
College of the Canyons started its semester Monday expecting its highest enrollment ever, but because of heavy cuts to the class schedule, students packed 90 percent of the classes and filled wait lists.

Officials expect up to 25,000 students to attend the school - a 16 percent increase compared to last fall - as the community college slashed 12 percent of fall semester classes in response to a $11 million budget reduction this year.

As a result, students trying to fill fewer classes, which has left many without any guarantee they will get the courses they need.

Monday brought droves of students who packed the parking lots in search of their classes.

This semester's may be the college's highest enrollment ever, COC spokeswoman Sue Bozman said.

"There's such an energy on the campus," Bozman said. "We have thousands of students showing up."

College figures show that about 90 percent of classes are full, which is significantly higher than previous semesters.

College officials credit a slow economy for the spike in enrollment as recently laid-off people are searching for new skills and another career.

With so many classes filled, students pulled up to COC to start the fall semester and were met with wait lists for classes.

Ernest Mancia, 20, of Panorama City transferred to College of the Canyons from another community college and found trouble getting into his French, welding, biology, physics and English classes.

"I got wait listed for all five classes," Mancia said.

Judging from the first day, Mancia hopes to get into three of his classes.

Justin Barnes, 18, graduated from West Ranch High School in June and started COC for the first time with the goal of transferring to a school on the East Coast.

"It seemed like a great place to start," he said.

Barnes had only been wait listed for his math class and felt comfortable on the first day of classes.

"It wasn't too bad, especially because I live around here and a lot of the students I know already," he said.

To combat the school's often overcrowded parking lots, which total 2,400 spaces, the city transit is offering free rides to COC students for the first three weeks of the semester.

The city recently changed the traffic patterns on Rockwell Canyon Road, which included the creation of right-turn only lanes and bike lanes.

Despite the few complaints about the changes, Bozman said the new traffic pattern is designed to reduce the number of traffic collisions caused by people entering and exiting the Valencia campus.

The added bike lanes were meant to meet the needs of COC's increasing population of bicycle-users, she said.

But Miki Roberts, 34, of Canyon Country said she just gets to the parking lots about 8:45 a.m. - 45 minutes before her first class begins.

One of her bigger problems was getting all of the science classes she needed for the nursing program.

"It was hard," she said. "But I got in."

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