SMC — Statewide budget uncertainty is taking its toll at Santa Monica College, which will only allow students to pre-enroll for one class for the summer session in an attempt to serve the largest number of students possible.
The school already enacted a similar policy for its winter session to cut back costs and maintain funding for the more popular fall and spring sessions.
Students will be allowed to enroll for one class before the summer session starts, and then try to add classes after it begins. The goal is to let more students get a crack at high-demand classes.
“Rather than having fewer students taking more units, we’re including more students,” said Teresita Rodriguez, vice president of enrollment development at SMC.
SMC will have to cut sections of classes, but at this point will not be cutting any majors or programs.
By cutting classes during the intersessions, SMC will save money it can put toward classes and sections during the regular fall and spring class periods. That’s because SMC gets money from the state for the entire year based on the number of full-time students it serves. By cutting back on course offerings in the intersessions — and the associated costs — the school has a better chance of being able to afford to serve its main student population the rest of the year.
Even offering to provide classes for the summer may be treading on dangerous financial ground, however.
Legislatures have not yet put the extension of two taxes on the June ballot, and the time to do so is rapidly expiring if it has not already. Those two taxes — which affect sales and income taxes and the vehicle license fee — would be used to fund education, including community colleges.
Even if those taxes passed, the state is looking at a $400 million cut to community college budgets.
SMC would be looking at a $5.57 million hit to its funding, or approximately 5 percent of its budget, said Randal Lawson, executive vice president of SMC.
SMC would have to cut 1,243 full-time students out of its enrollment, which could equate to as much as 2,585 actual people, assuming some of the students that could not be enrolled would not take a full 15-hour class load.
Instead, SMC officials have been making plans based on Scenario B, as presented in a March 23 Town Hall meeting.
That assumes that minimal funding will come in from the state through Proposition 98, a voter-mandated formula that apportions state money to education.
Under those circumstances, the school would lose $9.79 million, which equates to 2,185 full-time students or approximately 4,545 in projected lost head count.
The final option is Scenario D, called the “Doomsday” scenario.
“That’s if the legislature votes to suspend Proposition 98,” Lawson said.
If Prop. 98 funding gets halted, $15 million or nearly 15 percent of SMC funding will be gone.
For the 2010-11 school year, SMC was funded for 21,477 credit students, Lawson said. If the Doomsday scenario holds, that number will be cut to 18,244 credit students.
Moving forward with Scenario B funding, and deciding to provide summer classes under that assumption, could be a dangerous move, Lawson said, but there was a limit to how long the school could postpone making a decision on class offerings.
“We tried very hard not to go online with a summer schedule and have to reduce it after the fact,” Lawson said. “We assume the Prop. 98 minimum in terms of funding, and as a result, we’ve reduced it to a third of what it has been in the past.”
The cuts will impact current SMC students, but it will also have an effect on local high school students trying to supplement their coursework through the college.
At present, high schoolers get the lowest possible priority on enrollment, said Samohi College Counselor Frank Gatell, which will make it more difficult for students looking to get more extracurricular work in to succeed.
“They use SMC to get ahead, but also to open a window to keep another extracurricular activity,” Gatell said. “If they’re pushing themselves in a foreign language and also a music program, they’re running out of time to do it all.”
Mandated coursework in high school only leaves two periods a day for extracurriculars, Gatell said, so students tried to knock out some of those necessary classes over the summer at SMC.
Malibu High School College Counselor Ah Young Chi said the cuts may cause more kids to move to online classes.
“It’s not what we recommend,” she said. “That’s a last resort, because online learning is so different from classroom learning.”
Other options are far more expensive, Chi said. Classes at private schools can cost into the thousands of dollars, and classes at public universities, like UCLA Extension, are also expensive.
“We’re telling all students who have mentioned that they want to take a summer class that you’re probably not going to get any classes you want,” Chi said.
High schoolers aren’t just competing against regular SMC students for spots. Students from as far as San Diego are flocking to SMC to take advantage of summer courses that have been cut from many other community colleges.
“Everyone is concerned about the ability to make progress when there’s such a scarcity,” Rodriguez acknowledged.