Amid Budget Cutbacks, California Colleges Reduce or Eliminate Summer School

It is a summer of discontent on many California college campuses.

Some, including West Los Angeles College and the three campuses in the San Diego Community College District, have canceled the regular summer session because of budget cutbacs, only offering some non-credit classes and a few specialized courses.

Others have severely curtailed course offerings, frustrating students like William Diaz, who found that the few chemistry classes being offered in the nine-campus Los Angeles Community College District were all full by the time he was scheduled to register.

And at some California State University campuses, including Cal Poly Pomona, students will pay hundreds of dollars more in the summer than they would for an equivalent course load during the academic year.

Summer school has customarily been a time for thousands of students to gain ground on degrees or, if hampered by work and family duties, stay on track. But state funding cuts have forced many public colleges into a difficult balancing act, and many have chosen to slash summer classes to preserve more fall and spring programs.

As a result, despite high demand, enrollment has plummeted, students are packed ever more tightly into classrooms and the summer of 2011 is emerging as one of the toughest anyone can remember.

It is a trend that has been building. In the 23-campus Cal State system, estimated summer enrollment fell to 12,000 in 2010 from 92,000 in 2008. Course offerings dropped from about 8,100 to 5,800 during the same period. Figures for 2011 are not yet available but are expected to mirror those from last year or to have fallen further.

Adding to the pressure is the fact that most Cal State campuses this year require students to foot the entire bill for classes, rather than using state funds to subsidize a portion of the costs as they do during the academic year. At Cal State San Bernardino, for example, a summer student taking a full load of 12 units will pay basic tuition of $1,480 plus an extra $60 per unit, or an additional $720.

Community colleges, meanwhile, are experiencing unprecedented reductions. Nearly two-thirds of community college districts responding to a survey conducted by the chancellor’s office reported plans to cut offerings for this summer by 50% or more.

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