COS, state colleges facing new realities

Eve Thompson

How will recent decisions to reduce enrollment at California State University campuses affect College of the Siskiyous.

It’s not expected to be a bad thing for many COS graduates; and it may bring increased enrollment which would be a good thing, according to Transfer Center Director Bruce Johnston and COS President Randy Lawrence.

But Johnston and Lawrence agree that times are changing for COS, which is no longer able to offer as many personal enrichment classes as it has in the past due to budget cuts. If they are offered, those classes are now more expensive.

California State University’s Public Affairs Office recently released a statement indicating CSU plans to reduce enrollment by about 16,000 students in the spring of 2013. It’s a cost-cutting strategy that is mainly expected to affect community college students who would typically transfer to CSUs during the spring.

Another 25,000 students could be denied enrollment in the 2103-2014 academic year if a tax initiative proposed by Governor Brown is not passed by voters in November.

Johnston said, “Not very many of our transfer students will be hurt.”

He said the most recent figures from the Chancellor’s Office and the California Post Secondary Education Commission, for the years 2004-2005, showed that 25% of COS students transferred to CSUs.

COS’s own data for 2010-2011 “indicates that 29 students, roughly 10% of our students, transferred to CSUs,” said Johnston.

He said up to 47 percent of COS students who transfer to four-year schools go to out-of-state institutions, and the college has “an interstate exchange agreement with Southern Oregon University and Oregon Institute of Technology that waives 100% of out-of-state tuition; many go to those schools.”

Johnston said COS students  “always have a place to go. CSU’s decision doesn’t mean our students will be denied baccalaureates. Those who would have gone to CSU may have to pay more for their education because they’ll attend more expensive institutions.”

He said community colleges closest to CSU campuses will be hit harder because “CSU campuses have local recruiting policies, so students living closest to CSU campus are usually given priority admission. Butte College students will be hit harder by the CSU decision than COS’s.”

Lawrence points to the potential benefits from the CSU decision. “We’ll see increased enrollment since students can’t get in the CSUs,”?he said. “That’s fine with us! We’re one of the few colleges that has room for students.”

Lawrence encouraged students to enroll in transfer programs that have an implied guarantee of admission, the so-called SB 1440 (Senate Bill 1440) degrees. “The Associates in Art-Transfer or Associates in Science – Transfer include degrees in Science, Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.”

“By law, community college students awarded an AA-T or AS-T degree are guaranteed admission with junior standing in the CSU system. It’s a promise for our students, a good one,” Lawrence said.  In fact, in spring 2013, CSU will admit 500 community college students enrolled in such programs.

Community college mission is changing

Nonetheless, the state’s educational budget cuts will alter the college. “We’re seeing a changing face and mission of community colleges,” Johnston said.

“Academic goals take precedence, which means the state provides funds for our Basic Skills programs, Career and Technical Education areas, and ‘transfer to earn a Baccalaureate’ classes, the so-called ‘get a job’ programs,” Johnston noted.

Basic Skills programs include pre-collegiate classes in Reading, Writing, and Math. Career and Technical Education programs include Certificate Programs and Associates degrees in areas like Nursing, Welding, Administration of Justice, and Environmental Education. Transfer classes include college level English, Science, Social Sciences, and Art classes that prepare students to transfer to a university to complete their baccalaureate degree.

But costs are rising for personal enrichment courses that are designed for “lifelong learners” and are often only available in Community Education programs. Programs such as arts and crafts, fitness and well-being, summer camps, music and culture, nature studies and gardening “must be self-funding,” Johnston emphasized.|

Pre-recession, community members could typically pay a nominal fee to enroll in one of these areas. Now a student must pay for the instructor’s time and materials. “It’s more costly, which often means people will at least think twice before enrolling,” Johnston said.

“The Chancellor’s office has been leaning on us to cut back on avocation courses,” Lawrence agreed. “Classes can’t be ‘just recreational.’ That hits classes like PE, music, our camps.”

Plug pulled on summer jazz and show choir camp

COS’s popular summer jazz and show choir camp offered the past 17 years is a case in point. The camp was aimed primarily at high school age students, according to its co-founder, Roger Emerson.

Lawrence said that last year he told the camp’s co-director, Elaine Schaefer, that the camp had to be self-supporting because the state had no funds for it. “She had to figure costs for instructors and materials and charge the participants accordingly. She checked with people that traditionally came, asking if they could pay the increased cost. Most were unable to afford that.”

“Unfortunately, we had to cancel it,” Lawrence said. “But I hope we can offer it in the future. Programs like that are an important part of who the college is.”

Composer and music teacher Roger Emerson, who co-founded the camp, said the camp's cost would have doubled to over $600 without the state subsidy. Both he and Schaefer felt that price would make the camp unaffordable to most students.

Over the years the camp had provided a weeklong, professional music and dance experience for approximately 2,000 students, taught by nationally known directors Kirby Shaw, John Jacobson, Jarad Voss and Greg Jasperse, according to Emerson. “We hate to see it go,” he said, “but unfortunately, it's a sign of the times.”

Johnson calls COS “a precious resource. We need to protect it for our sons, daughters, and all interested in lifelong learning.”

“We’re rising to the challenges presented by CSU and the state,” Lawrence noted. “We’re offering more free events, like the Faculty Seminars, for example. I’m sure we’ll continue to keep COS strong for all of our students.”