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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Feb. 20, 2009
Enrollment up sharply at Grossmont, Cuyamaca colleges
EL CAJON – Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges are reporting record enrollments this semester, totaling more than 29,100, the result of rising unemployment, higher fees at universities, and recognition of community colleges as foremost providers of workforce training.
The district’s enrollment increase of about 9 percent from this time last spring and nearly 20 percent since 2004 reflects record numbers at both colleges –19,316 for Grossmont and 9,848 for Cuyamaca after the first month of classes. These are the colleges’ census day figures – the snapshot numbers California community colleges report to Sacramento every semester for funding allocations.
Officials see rising enrollments at both Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges as a sign of increasing public awareness of community colleges as an affordable way to gain new job skills or to start on the path toward a university degree.
“Our resources continue to be very limited and we are serving many more students with substantially fewer resources,” Chancellor Omero Suarez said Monday, the start of his final week as district chancellor. Dr. Cindy Miles takes over the job March 2.
“The historically high enrollments mean stretched resources, and crowded classrooms, but we’re accommodating everyone we can.”
As the foremost providers of workforce training, the colleges are a major benefit to the local community and economy during the current fiscal downturn.
“Because of the poor economy, more people are returning to school for additional training or a new career,” said Dr. Sunita Cooke, president of Grossmont College, where enrollment has climbed by nearly 1,400 students, an 8 percent increase since spring 2008.
“In addition, since the UC and CSU schools are accepting fewer students, and raising fees, many are turning to community colleges to further their education and prepare themselves for a better future.”
Dr. Cristina Chiriboga, Cuyamaca College interim president, said that the college is serving 916 more students this spring than last, an increase of more than 10 percent.
She labeled as “exciting” Cuyamaca’s continuing upward trajectory, noting that this is the fourth straight year of growth for the Rancho San Diego college. Since spring 2006, Cuyamaca’s numbers have climbed in excess of 33 percent.
“That we are breaking enrollment records with each successive year is no surprise because the word is out about the combination of excellent facilities and a class schedule designed to accommodate students’ busy lives,” Chiriboga said. “We offer classes night and day, weekends, online, and as short-term and regular, semester-length courses.”
With funding from Proposition R, the $207 million local bond measure approved by voters in 2002, the district has been able to obtain state matching dollars and other monies to build or expand nine high-tech buildings at the colleges and is currently in construction with three more projects: a business and computer and information science building at Cuyamaca, and a multi-story parking structure and health/physical sciences complex at Grossmont.
Enrollment is up not only at the colleges, but for the district’s Community Learning program, largely due to increased interest in job-related training.
Based at Cuyamaca College, the Community Learning program provides certification, non-credit and fee-based classes district-wide in a variety of areas, including music, business, computers, and short-term, occupational training in food-handling, hazardous waste disposal, customer service, and more.
In 2006-2007, Community Learning served 13,473 students. The following year, enrollment climbed to 14,722.
The burgeoning student population resulting from a combination of the new facilities and lackluster economy has proven a double-edged sword, officials say, because of the state’s budget crisis and limited funding for enrollment growth.
“We are serving more students with fewer state dollars, which has not been easy,” said Grossmont’s Dr. Cooke. “There have been cost-cutting and sacrifices all around. The idea of curtailing educational access and cutting out opportunities is painful to everyone. We are facing challenging times in dealing with higher demand, record enrollment with fewer classes and less money to teach students.”
For more information about the colleges, including registering for eight-week courses beginning March 23, go to www.grossmont.edu and www.cuyamaca.edu .
Intergovernmental Relations, Economic Development, and Public Information
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