Jacob Rios has been going to community college for about six years. Year after year he toiled to complete his general education courses, with each year coming one step closer to his seemingly unattainable associate’s degree.
But the reason he struggled wasn’t because of jobs or personal commitments, it was simply because he couldn’t get a class.
Rios’ story is not unique. Many students in Long Beach have been having a hard time getting the classes they need to graduate, pushing the two-year process into a three-year process, four-year, or even a six-year ordeal.
The reason for crowded classes? Budget constraints.
In California, city colleges suffer some of the most from state funding and budget cuts. The drawbacks in funding have resulted in cutting classes, therefore making it increasingly difficult for students to obtain the classes they need to obtain their degrees and move onto higher degrees.
“The day that I tell the waitlist students that they have no chance to be in my class is really the worst day of the semester for me,” said Long Beach Community College English professor Michael Koger. “I see all these students who want to learn and need this class get turned away.”
And it isn’t only students at LBCC who are being affected; students at surrounding community colleges also feel the pinch. Many Long Beach residents go to schools like Cerritos College, Cypress College or Golden West College after failing to find classes locally.
According to a recent poll created by the Cerritos College Newspaper, only about 33 percent of students were able to get all of the classes they needed for the semester. That’s less than half of the student population — leaving 77 percent with either little to no classes to take this semester.
While many students get at least some classes, there’s a handful of students who spend their time on waitlists praying for any openings to come up during the semester.
“I was waitlisted for the majority of my classes,” said Cerritos College freshman Gary Frye. “I didn’t want to just wait around for any openings so I decided to take matters into my own hands and go around to different teachers and petition.”
College sophomore, Rachel Naimen has enrolled at both Golden West and LBCC. Attending two schools at a time seemed the only option she had to obtain her general education classes in a reasonable time frame.
Instead of the full load of about four classes per semester, many students end up with just one class a semester, leaving some discouraged. Many students have to change their career paths.
“I got sick of paying for an education that was bound to take too many years to accomplish,” said Ryan Culbreth, recent US Army recruit. “After the first year of trying to get classes, I was over it, so I just decided to join the military.”
Course offerings for students in the state’s system have dropped by almost a quarter since 2008, according to an article in the L.A. Times. From 2004 to 2009, LBCC saw a steady decline in its university transfer numbers every year.
“With budget cuts we haven’t been able to have as many classes as we have previously,” Kroger said. “I think adding more classes is the only answer to overcrowded classes.”