Local News

Monday, Aug 20 2012 05:00 AM

Bakersfield College sees slight increase in enrollment

BY JORGE BARRIENTOS Californian staff writer jbarrientos@bakersfield.com

Bakersfield College, which resumes classes today for the new school year, is seeing slightly more students enrolled than last year and slightly more courses available.

But figures reported Friday are still way down from two years ago, and state budget cuts are to blame, college officials said.

About 16,700 students were enrolled at BC. That is slightly more than the 16,645 enrolled at the start of the semester last school year, but about 8 percent less than the year before, when 18,200 students enrolled.

BC is offering 1,500 classes this year. That's again more than last fall, but 130 fewer than two years ago. Classes have been restructured to focus on core and transfer disciplines such as mathematics, sciences and English, college officials said.

At the same time, and during the last three years, California community colleges have been cut by $809 million, or 12 percent of the overall budget. Looming in November is the threat of a $300 million trigger cut to community colleges if voters don't pass Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative.

"California's economic crisis is evident at Bakersfield College," Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg, interim president of BC, said in a statement. "Bakersfield College can no longer be everything to everyone when it comes to educating the community. The college is focusing on core transfer requirements, high demand career and technical education programs and streamlining educational services to help students complete educational goals faster."

Despite recent fee increases, BC remains a viable solution for students who need higher education locally and seek affordability, college officials argue.

While the majority of fall classes are full, students can check online at www.bakersfieldcollege.edu and click on "class schedule" to see a list of open classes by running an "advanced search" under fall 2012.

As of last week, nearly 70 classes -- including in philosophy, automotive technology, journalism, business administration, communications and English -- were still open.

Classes that start after the first day of school, or during non-peak times, are most likely to be available, college officials said. Students on wait lists should attend class on the first day or they will be dropped from the class.

Here's what else is new at BC:

* President: The nationwide search is ongoing for the permanent BC president. Gomez-Heitzeberg has been serving as interim for about a month, replacing the former interim Robert D. Jensen. Greg Chamberlain resigned as BC president earlier this year after about four years on the job. Officials will interview some 15 candidates for the job in the coming weeks.

* New faculty: Chamberlain is also one of 11 new instructors joining BC as full-time faculty this fall. He will teach in the Computer Studies Department.

* Benefits: About 1,300 Kern Community College District employees -- which includes BC -- planning to keep using medical benefits must decide on plans by Monday. This is the first year employees must begin paying for their share of medical benefit costs following years of the district paying the premiums.

* Federal student loans: This school year may be the last that students can get federal student loans through BC. KCCD officials will hold a study session this semester on the idea of halting the loans starting in July 2013. The move would force thousands of BC students to seek private loans or other aid to pay for their studies.

District officials are concerned that rising default rates on the federal loans could trigger federal fines and sanctions, including the total elimination of free financial aid -- like Pell Grants -- for all students.

* Enrollment: 16,696 are enrolled at BC overall, with 1,901 at the Delano campus and 408 at the Weill Institute. BC officially reports enrollment on census date, about one-third into the semester.

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