Gavilan enrollment soars 23 percent

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Gavilan College expects to see a 23 percent increase in student
enrollment despite the state’s decision to up fees by $6 per
unit.
Gavilan College expects to see a 23 percent increase in student enrollment despite the state’s decision to up fees by $6 per unit.

The fee hike, which will raise the cost of a credit from $20 to $26, takes effect immediately, said Gavilan spokeswoman Jan Bernstein Chargin. The increase, however, has done nothing to deter the deluge of students expected to flood onto Gavilan’s campus this fall. As of July 15, the total class enrollment was 11,661 – up 23 percent from the same time last year, Bernstein Chargin said.

Total class enrollment is calculated by multiplying the number of students enrolled at Gavilan by the number of sections they’re enrolled in, she said. For example, a student taking three classes accounts for three total class enrollments.

Bernstein Chargin looked to soaring unemployment rates and even greater fee hikes at four-year universities as the impetus for the enrollment spike.

“When people are unemployed, they go back to school,” she said.

Despite the fee hikes, Gavilan won’t see much of the extra money because the budget and fees aren’t set at the local level, Bernstein Chargin said.

“Just because we’re charging more doesn’t mean we can add more classes,” she said. “In an economic downturn, fees go up but there are fewer classes.”

In fact, Gavilan will be forced to cut about $2 million from its budget in the coming year. Once the college makes those cuts, the Community College League of California projects that Gavilan will lose about 1,075 from its enrollment – or 9 percent.

Although federal stimulus and stabilization funds will ease some of the cuts, school administrators are not sure by how much, Bernstein Chargin said. The college already cut about $800,000 in course offerings last year, which amounted to about 50 fewer sections this past summer and 90 fewer sections come fall. What this means for students is that waiting until the last minute to register for classes could be a disheartening experience.

“People who wait until the week before classes will have a very small range of classes to pick from,” Bernstein Chargin said. “There are going to be people who don’t find what they’re looking for. We’re advising people to get registered as soon as possible. We can’t add any more classes.”

For instance, biology and English 1A sections are already full, she said. Fall courses, which begin Sept. 1, are currently open for registration.

The last time the state raised fees to $26 per unit for community college courses, about 250,000 students statewide dropped out, Bernstein Chargin said. Students who have already registered for fall classes at the lower rate will be billed for the difference.

But even at $26 per unit, California community colleges have the lowest fees in the nation, Bernstein Chargin pointed out.

“It’s still the most affordable college education in the country,” she said.

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