Start-of-semester paradox.

Regular readers of this blog may recall that the California State University system, of which my fair campus is a part, is in the throes of a budgetpocalypse. The state of California just can't put up the money it used to put up to support the educational mission we are charged to uphold, and one immediate strategy the system has taken to deal with dramatically reduced state contribution is to shrink our enrollments.

I recognize that this seems counterintuitive -- you'd think more enrolled students would mean more tuition dollars coming in, which would bean more money available to pay for stuff like instructors and electricity in the classrooms and so forth. However, even with steadily increasing "student fees" (our euphemism for tuition in a university system which was set up to be tuition-free), the amount of money the students are putting up comes nowhere near the actual costs of educating those students. The money from the state is essential to even approaching those costs, so when the money from the states is reduced, it means we can't enroll as many students. (My understanding is that this has jacked up the demand at the community colleges significantly, but I haven't seen actual numbers on this.)

Anyway, from a faculty-eye view, the immediate impact of slashed enrollments was a first week of classes during which ... it didn't quite feel like the first week of classes on campus. There was not a line of traffic several blocks long to get into the parking structure. The sidewalks in most parts of the campus were not so congested with new and returning students as to be practically unnavigable. It was not practically impossible to grab a quick bite at the main campus eatery in a 15 minute window before noon.

However, from within my classrooms, you'd get the impression that enrollments have skyrocketed. I have had many more people asking for add codes (and many more students sitting on the floor or standing through the first class meeting) than in any semester I can recall here. I'm still waiting to see what the official policy ruling will be on how many students I'm allowed to add (since going over enrollment targets can lead to punishment of departments that do so).

I guess I'll try to appreciate how much less time it takes to park, even if I end up having to use the time I've saved (and more) grading a larger stack of student papers.

3 responses so far

  • David says:

    Unfortunately the community colleges are having to do the same thing, even though they're seeing increased demand. Jack Scott, California Community Colleges Chancellor, said there's more students on wait lists than in classes.

    Anecdotally, every class I'm in at the community college I'm attending has a wait list at least 5 to 10 people long. It's rather sad to watch the system falling down like this.

  • Septimia B. says:

    Putting side to side this: and what you just wrote is heartbreaking.

  • Sharon Crasnow says:

    I can't give you the numbers on overall community college enrollments either, but I can tell you that though my district has reduced the number of sections offered substantially (over 1000 sections cut last year), our enrollments are holding steady. This, of course, means that classes are very full. I have waitlists that are the size of my classes (49). This would suggest that we are offering only half of the philosophy classes that are needed, but this will not change any time in the near future I fear. We are still serving far more students than we are compensated for by the state. The emails that I get begging for add codes are heart-breaking.