Jeanette Cedeno, a freshman at Ohlone College in Fremont California says she’s preparing herself for the worst – not being able to quickly transfer to a four-year university. Her plan was simple, take courses all year-long, including the summer, and she would be able to transfer to her dream school, California State University, Pomona within two years.
“When spring semester started I already had three possible schedules, just in case. But I didn’t even get into one class” says Cedeno, who fears she will have to spend an extra year in community college in order to fulfill the requirements needed to transfer.
For decades, community college has been the gateway for Latinos and African-Americans pursing a higher education, according to a study conducted by the Civil Rights Project. In California alone, 75 percent of Latinos choose community college as the starting point for their college careers. Many of them, like Cedeno, later transfer to four-year colleges to complete their bachelor’s degree.
Yet, with steeper budget cuts, colleges across California, in particular community and city colleges are being forced to either reduce the number of summer courses – or cancel the programs completely.
“The reality is they don’t have the money to offer these courses,” says Erika Romero, executive director of legislative affairs for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. She explains that classes this summer are only getting more crowded.
In April, students attending Los Angeles City College (LACC), were notified by school officials that the school would be close for the summer in order to deal with the ongoing deficit. That meant that students who needed, or wanted to take courses in the summer had to look to the other eight community colleges in the district, all of which offered only a limited number of courses.
“We deeply apologize to the students who will be impacted by this decision,” wrote LACC’s President Jamilla Moore in a press release. “It was out of our control.”
The problem, says Dr. Deborah Santiago, co-founder and vice president of policy at Excelencia in Education, is that students will be forced to delay their ability to get a degree.
“We find that community college students are often commuting to campus and they take full course loads because they can take classes in the summer,” says Dr. Santiago. She adds that if students aren’t able to get into classes, their likelihood of dropping out increases. “Research shows that continuous enrollment increases retention and completion rates – that means taking summer classes for some community college students.”
Cedeno will not have that opportunity. The summer session began on Monday and she hasn’t been able to even put her name in the waiting list for any courses.
“Now I will have to take extra units during the year and if something goes wrong I will have to wait much longer before I transfer. It’s frustrating.”