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Santa Monica College to scrap winter classes

September 6, 2012 |  4:23 pm

Santa Monica College was one of the first community colleges in California to offer winter classes to help students hasten their progress toward a degree or transfer to a four-year university. But the Westside campus is joining a long list of schools statewide that have decided to scrap the session in response to severe funding cuts, officials said Thursday.

The college suffered nearly $8 million in state funding cuts in the 2011-12 fiscal year. All 112 community colleges, as well as the University of California and California State University face another hit mid-year if voters reject a tax measure on the November ballot supported by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Eliminating the six-week winter session will save about $2.5 million, said Donald Girard, senior director of government relations and institutional communications at the Santa Monica campus.

“It’s a difficult juggling act,” Girard said. “But by concentrating on cuts in the winter, we won’t have to devastate our spring semester as much as we would otherwise.”

About 11,385 students took courses in winter 2012, with about 400 classes offered, Girard said. The college will make a formal announcement soon so that students who had been accustomed to taking classes year-round can make other plans. Some of the college’s large population of international students, for example, may decide to return home during the break, Girard said.

Some students are opposing the cancellation and were planning to protest ahead of this evening’s Board of Trustees meeting, which is scheduled to include adoption of the school’s $182-million operating budget.

Parker Jean, president of Associated Students of Santa Monica College, said loss of the winter session will place a bigger burden on students seeking to advance their educations.

“It’s a direct reflection of budget cuts across the state,” said Jean, 19, a political science major. “It’s a shame we have to make these types of decisions locally.”

According to a history provided by the college, the Santa Monica campus in 1991 inaugurated an experimental compressed calender that included a winter (1992) session, in which classes met more hours per week than during a typical semester. By 2000, the Los Angeles Community College District, the state's largest, began to adopt the winter classes, and in recent years, about 35 of the state’s 72 community college districts offered the winter session.

But California’s budget crisis and the resulting cuts to higher education have steadily whittled away at the offerings. In a recent survey conducted by the chancellor’s office, only 12 of 78 responding campuses indicated they planned to offer winter classes in the current academic year.

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-- Carla Rivera

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