Educational funding cuts from the state and the continued economic crisis have local community colleges feeling the crunch. With a flurry of last-minute registrations, both De Anza and Foothill community colleges have waitlists for classes that are three times their normal numbers.
According to Foothill spokesperson Kurt Hueg, as of last Friday, Foothill had 1,549 waitlist requests, and De Anza had 6,864. Those numbers do not reflect the actual number of students, as one student could be on the waitlist for several classes.
"The first week there were students standing outside doors, literally, trying to add," Hueg said. "There's only so many seats."
"Some people registered late, so by the time a lot of those students registered they could not get the classes they wanted," said Becky Bartindale, spokesperson for the district.
Judy Miner, president of Foothill College, said enrollment is at 106 percent of the college's projections. She said that students are still registering, and by the end of registration enrollment could be at 110 percent.
"What is so frustrating to all of us is, this is record demand," Miner said, adding that this is the first year in which funding will not allow the college to offer enough courses for its students.
District representatives say the enrollment crunch is a product of cuts from above and greater demand from a growing student population. Though the district was required by the state to raise tuition this year from $13 to $17 per unit per quarter, they have had to scale back because of cuts from Sacramento. Foothill cut 129 sections this fall alone.
Hueg cited a plethora of reasons for the influx of need.
Some students are simply looking to pick up an extra class, he said. There are also those who went to a private college or a University of California system school and couldn't handle the cost. Some students were laid off and are looking to diversify their skill set by going back to school.
Add all of those to the regular community college population, and it simply boils down to high demand at a time when there are fewer resources to go around.
Bartindale said another contributing factor is that the district is on the quarter system, so its schools start later than colleges on the semester system.
"I heard that at some of the other community colleges, when students couldn't get classes, they said, 'We'll try Foothill De Anza,'" she said.
Hueg said the classes most in demand are generally courses that fulfill degree requirements or lead to transfers to four-year universities.
Though some courses must cap the number of students, such as English classes, which are full at 30, Miner said that some teachers are making room for extra students if "pedagogically appropriate."
"What (the teachers) try to do is allow people to add, knowing that some people are going to drop," Hueg said. "They want to give as many people a chance to take advantage of that opportunity."
Miner said that for fall quarter, the best the college can do to accommodate demand is to shuffle classes to where the greatest needs are, and encourage students to get creative with their schedules and requirements.
"If they are here for general education there could be another requirement that they may be able to meet," she said. Looking ahead, "we are all going to use the information from fall quarter to further refine our offerings for the winter quarter and spring quarter."
Though Miner said they had expected higher enrollment, the situation has still been stressful for teachers and administrators.
"There have been a lot of sleepless nights for us, thinking 'How do we make this work for our students?'" she said. "We've gone into education because that is our passion -- we want to see students get educated. We want to see workers who have been laid off (who want to) upgrade skills have a place to go."
To be unable to offer this "goes against the grain of why we chose to be in education," she said.