Sacramento’s Los Rios Community Colleges cut classes for fall


Ivania Areas, 18, of Natomas waits for the doors to open at the American River College Natomas Center in 2013. ARC began offering many online and hybrid programs since the pandemic began.

Ivania Areas, 18, of Natomas waits for the doors to open at the American River College Natomas Center in 2013. ARC began offering many online and hybrid programs since the pandemic began.

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The Los Rios Community College district is cutting classes scheduled for the fall as it aligns its offering with the sharp decline in enrollment that has occurred during the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the past two years, enrollment at Los Rios’ four colleges — American River, Cosumnes River, Folsom Lake and Sacramento City — has fallen 17% from the 70,000 full-time and part-time students it dessert in a typical year. It’s a trend unfolding at community colleges across the country, where a booming U.S. job market could inspire people to choose a job over school.

The district is now looking at which classes are particularly under-enrolled, it is cutting classes using a variety of criteria in order to properly deal with the low influx of students while trying to reduce the damage to the education it provides.

“We don’t cut classes because we’re out of money, we cut classes because students just don’t enroll in certain sections,” said Mario Rodriguez, vice-chancellor of finance and administration of Los Rios.

All Los Rios campuses had to re-address their course listings in response to enrollment. Rodriguez said enrollment losses appear to level off starting in the fall 2022 term, which begins Aug. 20, but says it’s too early to tell.

Rodriguez notes that Los Rios does better in enrollment than the average community college in California. Statewide, just from 2018 to 2020 — the most recent numbers available — community college enrollment in California grew from 2,144,315 to 2,090,635. The California Community College system received $150 million in the new state budget to help with enrollment growth and retention rates.

American River College has sought to remove all classes with five or fewer students in their math department, according to an email obtained by The Sacramento Bee. But the criteria for removing classes vary by program and need, said Scott Crow, public information officer for the ARC.

ARC President Melanie Dixon said some programs like labs or hands-on programs are sustainable and necessary for even five students, but in other programs five students in a section might just be “inconvenient”.

The high cost of living in California

Dixon also said that while some programs like apprenticeship are increasing in number, many programs are simply not recovering as well.

“I think the goal would be for you to try to get our students back into the field, making sure they can be very successful and have this high technology,” Dixon said. “And so we’re noticing that’s not necessarily the interest right now for students. And we’re guessing that’s the surge and kind of shrinkage of the different variants of COVID.

RP_WELDING_arc_weld
Students in the welding technology program at American River College practice their arc welding skills during class Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017 in Sacramento, Calif. their career education program. Randy Penche [email protected]

Declining community college enrollment is largely attributed to two things, according to Rodriguez. They first saw a drop in enrollment at the start of the pandemic because many service jobs were no longer available – those jobs being what many students used to support themselves.

The pandemic has also caused public health concerns for many students. Rodriguez says that while Los Rios has done its best to provide options such as distance and hybrid learning, they still view public health concerns as a reason why some students have not enrolled or are not income.

Now, as unemployment hits near pre-pandemic lows, a portion of prospective community college students are lured by job opportunities. This situation is exacerbated by the high cost of living in California, which only makes jobs more attractive.

Smaller classes

Rodriguez believes that the consequence of this drop in enrollment is ultimately beneficial to students due to the low faculty-to-student ratio.

“You’ll have more personalized training with your instructor,” he said. “We have more counselors right now to serve the students than we have ever had before. We have more tutoring hours than before. We are awarding more grants and aids this coming year than ever before. So now is the best time to be a student in Los Rios.

But the enrollment issue also affects faculty. In the email detailing how the ARC math department should drop classes with five or fewer students enrolled, Dean of Mathematics and Statistics Adam Windham explained how classes would be reassigned, prioritizing faculty full time.

“I know this is not good news for anyone: many full-time teachers will be teaching classes they didn’t plan to teach, in ways they wouldn’t prefer,” it reads. in the email. “Many adjunct professors, some of whom have taught at ARC for decades, will have no assignments. There’s no right way around this, I’m afraid: the impact these enrollment reductions will have on our department is catastrophic and will change the face of our department permanently.

That said, in order to avoid further damage, Dixon says they are “aggressively doing outreach” to increase signups through billboards and social media. She also said that all colleges in Los Rios are working with a consultant to create an outreach program.

Dante Motley is a summer reporting intern for The Sacramento Bee originally from Texas. He is a student at Yale University where he studies anthropology and writes for the Yale Daily News.

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